Parents, Teachers Concerned Over Possible Bristol Schools Closure

Parents and teachers are in a panic after hearing that Bristol schools may close.

"Our kids aren't going to get the education that they need. They're just going to get lost in the shuffle," said Danielle Holton.

Holton's two kids attend Edgewood School, one of two the Board of Education discussed closing. The other school is Northeast Middle School.

"I know you can't get blood from a stone. You can't get money from somewhere there isn't money to get, but I know there are other avenues," said Holton.

While no layoffs have been specifically mentioned, the superintendent said if it becomes necessary, it would hopefully be through attrition, and that they're looking at all options to reduce costs.

"We do have a list of teachers who are retiring this year. We hope when we're able to fill those positions, we fill them with new and recent graduates who have come out of our colleges and universities in Connecticut at perhaps a lower cost," said Superintendent Ellen Solek.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think I was going to hear schools were going to close, and that just can't happen guys," said Bristol Board of Finance Chair Cheryl Thibeault to the BOE during Wednesday night's special meeting.

Parents and teachers packed the meeting to hear the back and forth between the two groups. The BOE says it's facing a $3.2 million shortfall and that without help, it may come down to gutting programs or consolidating schools.

Mayor Ken Cockayne says he's not buying it.

"It's a bully tactic. Let's get everyone amped up and scared, and all that did really was upset the teachers, parents, and students. Nothing productive came out of that," said the Mayor.

BOE members disagreed with that assessment saying that they've cut as much as they can over the years. They say they've been underfunded for years, and the teachers' union agrees.

"We are 192 out of 200 districts when it comes to being ranked for per pupil funding, so we're right near the bottom," said Bristol Federation of Teachers President David Hayes.

While the answers will be far from easy, at the end of Wednesday night's meeting, many left optimistic that middle ground can be found and no schools will be closed.

"I was very glad [the Board of Finance] alluded to meeting in the middle, to coming closer for what is a fairly significant funding gap," said Superintendent Solek.

"I'm a father. I have a son in the school system. No one wants to see the school closed, and as the mayor, I'm not going to let a school close," said Mayor Cockayne.

The original timetable to adopt the city budget was May 16th, but it seems likely that will get pushed back. The next Board of Finance meeting is Tuesday and the public will have time to comment.

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