Integrating public schools: Hamden to redistrict

After three years of being warned by the state to stop sending so many of its black and Hispanic students to the same 5 schools, the Hamden Public School district's superintendent told the State Board of Education the town is moving forward with redistricting.

Hamden -- which has almost 6,000 students in 10 schools and has been identified by the state as one of the lowest-achieving districts -- will have a feasibility plan for that redistricting by this spring that will then need to be approved locally.

"The plan (is) to reconfigure all of our schools in the very near future," said Superintendent Fran Rabinowitz. "I do not look forward to it."

Implementing the redistricting that was approved by the state board Wednesday is sure to be challenging.

"Parents are never happy with having to leave their school... I always have difficulty moving families to one school to another. They absolutely hate it," she said. "Everyone is going to be really angry."

Under the No Child Left Behind act a handful of schools in her district did not make enough progress that the students were offered seats in other schools. Only 10 families took advantage, Rabinowitz said.

On top of the redistrict plan, Hamden is also considering making their alternative school a new magnet school to attract suburban students from surrounding communities.

"It is something we are considering," she said.

State law requires districts to report their student demographics for each school. If any school has 25 percent more minorities than the district average, the community must submit a plan to address the imbalance within 60 days. Last year six districts were cited by the state: Fairfield, Greenwich, Groton, Manchester, Enfield and Bristol. Just a handful of students put most of these districts out of compliance, and obliged them to come up with integration plans.

The number of districts with racial imbalances this year was not immediately available.

The state board last year was considering asking the state legislature to amend the racial integration law, which was written decades ago and does not impact urban areas because because their populations are overwhelmingly made up of ethnic minorities. No changes to the law were made.

Follow Jacqueline Rabe Thomas on Twitter.

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