Published January 15. 2013 4:00AM
Groton - The school district is considering an increasing number of requests from local groups interested in using space at the sprawling, and now mostly vacant, Fitch Middle School.
Fitch was the largest and oldest of three middle schools when it was closed last summer to save money. The decision to close the school came in the wake of a resounding rejection at referendum of a $133 million "Phase II" school upgrade plan in 2011. Part of the plan was to consolidate the three middle schools into one new school.
The town's Parks and Recreation is using a part of school for programs like indoor field hockey and the Fitch High School robotics club has already requested use of the school for its projects.
At a Board of Education Finance Committee meeting Monday, board member Robert Peruzzotti said he has received additional requests from the Groton Regional Theater and Boys and Girls Club.
Peruzzotti, said he was open to ideas "if we can put it to good use at little or no costs."
School board member Kim Watson agreed.
"I would much rather have life in it than not," she said.
School district business manager Carolyn Dickey said insurance, security and custodial costs will be considerations before any approvals are granted.
The school district owns the building and is paying an estimated $130,000 to keep electricity and heat in it. It is still used to house furniture, records and supplies. When it was closed, the school board envisioned using the school in case it needed a place to house students while another school was being renovated.
The board has also talked about using the school to house the school district's central office, at an estimated annual savings of $90,000. An alterative school has also been discussed.
School board members said Monday they are enlisting facilities and grounds director William Robarge to investigate costs and limitations of use of the school.
Fitch Middle School was built in 1928 and it would cost millions to bring the school up to present standards, Peruzzotti said. He said the school board would also consult with the town council on acceptable uses.
The idea of consolidating the town's remaining two middle schools into one new school could at some point be resurrected with the recent formation of a school facilities task force. That group is expected to tackle the increasing problem of aging and outdated school buildings.