We took last week\u2019s Board of Education meeting on the road, all the way to Cider Mill where the board enjoyed a student-led demonstration in the school\u2019s innovative Learnings Common facility. The Learnings Common concept has been a work in progress for the past few years, as our dedicated staff works to adapt our facilities to meet the needs of 21st Century learning.As described by the Cider Mill administrative team, the Learnings Common is a \u201cspace\u201d where students and teachers come to investigate questions, produce artifacts and consume information related to learning. It\u2019s a place where library media staff and technology staff now work as an integrated team to serve as coaches and co-teachers as they work to effectively incorporate technology into students\u2019 everyday learning experiences. In Cider Mill, the Learnings Common is located in the space formerly known as the library media center. But now, the space has been transformed to include space for quiet reading, group interactions and computer-based learning.Cider Mill\u2019s efforts have been spearheaded by Technology Instructional Leader Jason Greasley and Library Specialist Liisa Hibbard, who led a team of colleagues in conceptualizing the purpose, capabilities and design of the Learnings Common. As Mr. Greasley explained, the facility is rooted in four underlying strands:\u2022 Digital Citizenship.\u2022 Creativity and Collaboration.\u2022 Information\/Research Literacy.\u2022 Literacy Appreciation.A group of fifth graders demonstrated the benefit of this integrated approach to learning. The students demonstrated their prowess at programming and robotics by remotely manipulating toy robots through a maze. The students worked in groups to guide their robots, and when questioned, several said the exercise helped them realize the limitless potential of technology in problem solving, and the value of collaboration.Learnings Commons are \u201cworks in progress\u201d across the district, and it was fascinating to see how the facility has already become a vital part of the Cider Mill culture. Students look to the facility both as a source for the tools needed to do their work, and as a place to collaborate with peers and teachers.The Wilton Education Foundation and the Cider Mill PTA have been tremendous supporters of the Learnings Common initiative. Their generosity has enabled the purchase of new furniture, technology, and other materials. Superintendent Smith\u2019s proposed 2017-18 operating budget also invests in the Learnings Common concept. As we have learned, our traditional approach of maintaining a library, media center and computer lab \u2014 independent of each other \u2014 is inefficient. Today\u2019s students are learning in an integrated environment, in which they move seamlessly from one medium to the next. The Learnings Common fills this need, and aligns the Wilton schools with best practices already in place in other high-achieving districts.It\u2019s essential for members of our community to understand initiatives like this, as we continue to discuss the 2017-18 budget. We want community members to be aware of our plans, and feel good about supporting our budget.To date, board members have submitted roughly 50 questions to the administration, seeking clarification about various aspects of Superintendent Smith\u2019s proposed budget. We spent time during last week\u2019s meeting reviewing answers to those questions. One topic of note was the issue of class size. Specifically, the administration was asked what the effect would be on class size if we were to eliminate a section at each elementary grade level. The net effect would be:\u2022 Grade 5: Average class size would increase from 21.4 to 23.07.\u2022 Grade 4: Average class size would increase from 22.5 to 24.5.\u2022 Grade 3: Average class size would increase from 22.2 to 24.\u2022 Grade 2: Average class size would increase from 20.4 to 22.1.\u2022 Grade 1: Average class size would increase from 20.8 to 22.7\u2022 Kindergarten: Average class size would increase from 19.3 to 21.3.One the surface, this might not seem like a dramatic impact. How much of an impact can \u201cjust one more\u201d student have in a class? Well when asked about it, each of our building principals had the same reaction: The impact would be significant. As Miller-Driscoll Principal Kathy Coon explained, today\u2019s classroom has students learning at all different levels, based on individual capabilities. A classroom teacher will generally offer instruction to the entire class, and then move among students as they work to build on the teacher\u2019s lesson. Adding one or two more students would stretch the teacher\u2019s ability to offer one-on-one instruction, and take away from the classroom experience. Principal Coon also noted the \u201cslippery slope\u201d that could occur, as an increase in classroom sizes next year, could open the door to additional increases in future years.The entire \u201cbudget question and answer\u201d document is posted on the district website. As currently proposed, the budget seeks no additional funding over current spending levels.Finally, a quick but important housekeeping item. There are a couple of pages on the district website that note the Board of Education email address. We learned last week that while the home page correctly lists the new email address for correspondence with the board, the page listing our members was not updated. We regret this oversight, and any inconvenience it may have caused. The mistake is being corrected, but please note that all board correspondence should be directed to:\firstname.lastname@example.org.