Declining enrolment: Waivers requested for Norfolk regional school Reply

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Waivers requested for Norfolk regional school

BY KATHRYN BOUGHTON

REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

HARTFORD — The State Board of Education on Monday recommended a 10-year waiver from two state regulations to help ease the creation of a new regional school district for Norfolk and Colebrook elementary school students.

The waiver still requires approval by the legislature.

Matthew Venhorst, a state school board attorney who works with the Norfolk-Colebrook Regional School Study Committee, said the group has devised a plan that potentially violates two state requirements: the Minimum Budget Requirement, or MBR, which requires school districts each year to spend no less than the previous year, and the allocation of regional district contributions based on enrollment.

“The board can’t approve this plan until we get state authorization,” Venhorst said. “The length of that exemption was originally five years, but this is a work in progress and we have revised the figures and forecast so now we are asking for a 10-year exemption.”

JONATHAN COSTA from Education Connection in Litchfield, who has guided the committee through its negotiations, said 10 years is needed to equalize the 20 percent funding differential between the two communities.

“It is a lot of ground to make up in five years,” he said. “Colebrook would be the first community in Connecticut without its own elementary school. It puts Colebrook at exposure if it needs to reconstitute a school. Without the certainty that they will save money and have a better educational situation, it’s a hard sell.”

The state Department of Education did not endorse the request, however. Kathy Demsey said the department recommends that the original five-year waiver be allowed with an opportunity to come back and seek a further extension.

She said the proposal is an experiment to address the problem of declining enrollments that so many towns face.

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