Major school needs cited at Derby summit 

DERBY -- Supt. of Schools Martin Gotowala projected Thursday that the city's
growing student population will require 15 additional intermediate and high school
classrooms within the next four years.

Gotowala said 43 classrooms are currently available, but by the 2004-05 school
year, 58 classrooms will be needed.

Gotowala, who began his duties about three months ago, outlined enrollment
projections and a series of recommendations for the school system. He spoke during an education
summit at Derby High School, where the Board of Aldermen, Board of Apportionment and Taxation
and Board of Education held a joint meeting.

Mayor Marc Garofalo called the meeting to identify education needs during the next decade and begin a
process to address those needs. He said solutions must be found to meet increasing student enrollment.

The meeting follows a June 10 referendum in which residents overwhelmingly rejected three proposals
totaling $44.5 million that would have paid for construction of a new high school, renovation of the
existing high school into a middle school and development of new athletic fields.

Gotowala said the combined enrollment for grades 7 to 12 stood at 648 as of Oct. 1, 51 more students
than on Sept. 7. The total has continued to grow since Oct. 1, he said.

"By the 2004-05 school year, there will not be enough classrooms to accommodate the students,"
Gotowala said.

He recommended intermediate school students be housed in a separate facility and the city's
sixth-graders join seventh- and eighth-graders in such a school.

"The needs of the students are different," he said.

Gotowala also said he would like to add foreign language classes to the middle school curriculum and
eventually to the elementary school level.

"Foreign language has become essential for students to function in a global society," he said.

He also suggested creation of all-day kindergarten classes and limiting class sizes at all grade levels to 20
to 25 students with no more than 19 in kindergarten.

He said high school class sizes are currently as high as 31, while elementary school classes are as large
as 28 students.

While nobody disagreed with Gotowala's enrollment and space projections, solutions remain uncertain.

"Is it feasible to go to portable classrooms?" asked Robert Cerritelli, a tax board member.

"Of course, they are an option," Gotowala said. "But where would we put [15 classrooms]? We also
would need a portable gym and cafeteria."

Pat Oates, a Fairview Terrace resident, said he believes Thursday's summit was a good start toward
solving the problem.

"The need is not bogus," Oates said. "It is not a figment of somebody's imagination."

He suggested forming a committee soon to address the challenges.

Joe Musante, who covers the Valley, can be reached at 736-5440.