Officials mull overcrowding at schools 
 Marianne Lippard, Register Correspondent June 14, 2001 

DERBY Now that residents have rejected building a new high school for a second time, city and school officials will again seek a solution to overcrowding. 

Voters Tuesday rejected the $31.4 million proposal to construct a new high school on a portion of Field View Farm.

Final figures showed 1,878 residents voted against the plan while 1,433 favored it, a difference of 445 votes.

Last year, a $40.6 million plan to build a new high school and transform the current facility into a middle school was rejected by a 2 to 1 margin at referendum.

Superintendent of Schools Martin Gotowala said the defeat doesn't change the facts, and new space will have to be found to meet the needs of the growing school population.

Already, the school board offices are being moved to the new City Hall building at 1 Elizabeth St. to free up three classrooms in an effort to ease overcrowding.

Gotowala said he expects to be in the new building by Friday.

"We have no time to lose," Gotowala said. "The city of Derby still has a significant problem.  We need a solution that will not damage the educational process."

Gotowala said the school system is focusing significant energy on improving student learning.  Toward that end, he said, next year the length of the school day is being extended 20 minutes for grades 1 through 12.

Kindergartners, who attend school half a day, will have 10 minutes of instructional time added to each school day.

School will begin at the same time for Derby students but will end later.  The extra minutes of instruction will benefit students, Gotowala said.

"Time devoted to teaching has an impact on learning," he said.

He said that overcrowding could have a negative impact on other efforts to improve the educational experience.

Mayor Marc Garofalo said the city's population has stayed the same since 1950, but the distribution has shifted, causing a need for more classroom space throughout the school system.

City and school officials want to reduce classroom size at the high school, which has 650 students.

Garofalo said the school proposal had addressed many of the concerns raised at public forums held last fall.

"Any of the solutions (already studied) cost about the same amount of money," Garofalo said, noting that residents would get more for their money with a new school building.

Board of Education Chairman James Gildea said now that the taxpayers have spoken, it is time to move on.

Overcrowding will be the main topic at a meeting at 7 p.m. next Thursday at Derby High School.

"I'm disappointed in the outcome," Gildea said. "In my opinion, it was not only the best thing for the parents, but the city as a whole.  I think the best thing is to regroup and begin looking at alternative solutions."

©New Haven Register 2001