A battle over the school budget heats up in Bristol as the board of education considers shuttering up to two schools by the end of the year.
This situation has unfolded within the last two weeks. The board has asked for an additional $4.7 million for the 2016-2017 school year, while the city's Board of Finance suggested only a $1.3-million increase.
Two meetings were held on Wednesday to comb over next year’s budget, which may include the shut down of up to two schools. Hundreds showed up at the meeting on Wednesday evening to hear what officials had to say.
"This is a fluid and dynamic process. We are trying to work through it the best we can, realizing we are going to have to deliver education differently with limited resources," Board Chairman Christopher Wilson said.
But, Bristol Mayor Ken Cockayne said it doesn't need to come to that. Cockayne said the process has been extremely frustrating and the school board hasn't worked with the city the way it should in the process.
"That is absolutely ridiculous," Cockayne said. "I told my all my department heads on the city side for the budget keep your requests under two percent."
A source told Eyewitness News the two schools in question are Edgewood, which is kindergarten to fifth grade, and Northeast Middle School. But officials with the school district would not confirm that. There are 330 students who attend Edgewood and 460 who attend Northeast.
"It's very concerning to me because I have two kids within the school (Edgewood). I love the school. I'm very active," said Danielle Holton, who is an Edgewood School parent.
"None of us wants to close a school," Wilson said. "None of us wants to have higher students in the classroom, but we have such a great gap we have to come up with some kind of solution to manage the resources we have."
The board of education emphasizes nothing has been decided and no final budget decisions have been made.
"They're just playing games that's all this is and that's what I've been expressing to parents," Cockayne said.
As a result of the meeting, school and city officials are optimistic they can find a solution, but if they want to save the schools they have to find other ways to save money.
"I'm a glass half full person...so I believe that school closures are not a challenge for us this year," said school Superintendent Ellen Solek.
There will be another budget meeting held on Tuesday night where the public will be allowed to comment.
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