NORWALK, Conn. – Aidan DeVingo doesn't mince words: Life at Norwalk's Brookside Elementary School is not the same.
"It was a waste of time," the third-grader said of his first visit to the school's library this year. "We didn't get any books, we just sat there."
The school's library aide works at both Brookside and Marvin Elementary schools, alternating weeks. It's a common arrangement at Norwalk Public Schools following this summer's Board of Education budget battle, in which $5.9 million was cut from the budget proposed by then-Superintendent Susan Marks.
Norwalk's middle schools are on a six-day rotating schedule in which they are open every other day, West Rocks Principal Lynne Moore said. Rowayton Elementary shares a librarian with Columbus Magnet School, said Jimi Napoli, co-president of the Columbus Parent Teacher Association.
Napoli said the new library aide is not familiar with Columbus or its programs. "I assume there is a learning curve for anyone new, but I must question how does one get to that place when only working every other week in a new, strange environment," she said in an email. "We greatly miss our Mrs. Pearce, who was so much more than just the librarian. She was our media specialist, kept our PC lab in top working order and documented the year with photographs and video."
The Rowayton library is open every day, and teachers help students in the aide's absence, Jody Sattler, president of Rowayton's Parent Teacher Organization, said in an email. She added, "We are starting a parent volunteer rotation to help out when the librarian is at the other school."
Two Brookside fathers said the library closure isn't an issue for their children, who go to the Norwalk Public Library. But other parents said most Brookside children don't have that option.
The children say they miss Paula Madden, the school's former librarian, now a secretary in the Norwalk High School special education department. "I wish she could come back, I feel so sad," said Caroline Petropoulos, a fifth-grader.
"I really like her, we didn't even have a book fair," said Amber Gaoseffi, a fifth-grader and Caroline's friend.
Parents said the annual September book fair, which funds books for the library and the classrooms, was Madden's project. Madden was "the community of the school," said Audra Good, a parent.
On Sept. 25, the kids said they had only been to the library once. Good said, "As a parent, I want to see my son have access to a regular library time where they're read to and they check out a book, and he has not had that opportunity."