Hundreds pack state hearing on potential school consolidation

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HARTFORD -

Hundreds of parents, students and school board members from western Connecticut were among the vocal crowd in Hartford today opposing several school consolidation bills.

There are three plans on the table. One would force towns under 40,000 people to merge with nearby school districts. A second would only require school systems with less than 2,000 students to merge. The third bill is from the governor. It wouldn't force consolidation but would offer incentives to districts to share services and penalties to those that didn't.

The proposals by Democrats are motivated by the state's dire financial situation, a $3.7 billion deficit over the next two fiscal years.

Legislators say more than 3,500 people sent in testimony. Another 200 signed up to talk today, and there were three overflow rooms opened for the hearing.

Dozens of parents and students boarded a bus in Wilton this morning to head to the hearing. Some brought signs with the words "Hands Off Our Schools."

News 12 Connecticut spoke to parents this morning who aren't OK with any of the options. A couple said they specifically moved to Wilton because of the schools. There are concerns consolidation would lead to schools losing their cultural feel, class sizes increasing, and bus time getting longer.

“We feel that the best way to maintain the schools and the integrity of the state is to keep our schools local,” said Ruth Deluca, of Wilton.

“Right now, I think our school size is reasonable. Bigger is not necessarily better,” said Xuehai Ling, of Wilton.

Students also offered their concerns.

“Every like community has its own culture, every school. So when you try to do regionalization, you have to keep that in mind,” said Elizabeth Yoon, a student at Wilton High School.

The governor says Connecticut has 169 towns and more than 200 districts, which is costing the state a fortune. He says something needs to be done to help the state dig its way out of the current budget crisis.

 
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Earlier coverage: 

Related stories:

Gov. Lamont pitches controversial school consolidation plan to local leaders
Controversial proposals would merge school systems 
Gov. Lamont visits Norwalk elementary school where test scores soar
Bill would let home-schooled students take part in public school sports 

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