Faced with several filled-to-capacity schools, the is considering redefining its Belmont elementary school boundaries as enrollment continues to swell.
Dozens of parents packed the multi-use room Thursday night to voice their concerns and questions to Superintendent Emerita Orta-Camilleri, Assistant Superintendents Nellie Hungerford and Penny Weaver, Board President Andy Stulbarg, and board members Cathy Wright, Brian Matthews and Robert Tashjian.
The school district has about $29.4 million to spend on modernization at the Belmont elementary schools, thanks to the passage of last November, and Tashjian said the question comes down to whether to put the money into building new classrooms or upgrading classrooms.
"We all want the classrooms to look new, updated, not cluttered so the teachers can teach well," Tashjian said. "It costs a lot of money to build new classrooms. It would be extraordinarily expensive to build new classrooms at Cipriani to fit the current site."
He added, "We have extra rooms, open rooms. Does it make sense to spend bond money to build new classrooms, when we have unused classrooms at one of our schools?"
One of the options, which riled up most parents at Thursday night's meeting, is to move about 120 students from Central Elementary to , Orta-Camilleri said.
No decisions were made at Thursday's meeting, and school officials urged parents to remember they have several months -- until May 5, to be exact -- before a recommendation is made to the board. The board will take action on May 19.
A boundary committee -- comprised of Matthews, Tashjian, Orta-Camilleri, Weaver and Hungerford, as well as the principals from all six elementary schools in the district and parent representatives from each elementary school -- will hold a number of meetings before May.
But some parents said two months isn't enough time to come up with a space solution.
"The bond measure was passed some time ago and probably this could have been started a little sooner," Belmont resident Dave Stumbo said.
Many parents also expressed interest in changing the name of the boundary committee in order to emphasize other possibilities.
"I suggest we just scrap the boundary committee name and make this a capacity committee," Belmont resident Traci Psaila said.
"Renaming the group working on this is a terrific idea," Belmont resident David Long echoed. "There are opportunities for a lot of people to get involved."
Psaila said she was "all fired up" and willing to help in any way possible to keep her children from having to switch schools.
It wouldn't be the first time Psaila's family was rezoned to another school, she said. The older of her two children used to attend Cipriani, but was switched to Central a few years ago.
"It is such a horribly painful process," Psaila said. "It wasn’t just an effect on my children, it was an effect on my entire family. I felt like I lost all my sisters, all my mom friends. I will do anything to keep this from happening."
The issue of property value also arose Thursday night, with parents worrying the values of their homes would decrease potentially by up to $100,000 should their kids be moved from Central to Nesbit.
The school board emphasized that the boundary changes, if implemented, likely wouldn't take place for the next school year.
Mayor Coralin Feierbach also attended the meeting and said afterward that she was pleased with the parents' ideas.
"In listening to these Central School parents, I'm very impressed with their ideas, passion and intelligence," she said. "I hope one of these parents would apply for the empty school board seat."
More information can be found by clicking "View Gallery" beneath the image of the attendance regions, or by clicking here.
The deadline to apply for the is 4:30 p.m. on Monday. Visit the school district's website to apply.
The next meeting to discuss the possibility of redistricting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday in Central Elementary's multi-use room.