Options for East Lyme elementary schools on tonight's agenda

East Lyme - The district's elementary school facilities are facing structural problems, and the community will meet tonight to discuss several long-term options to renovate or rebuild them.

The main proposals will be presented at a forum from 6 to 8 p.m. at Flanders Elementary School.

One proposal would renovate "as new" the Niantic Center, Lillie B. Haynes and the Flanders elementary schools, said Superintendent James Lombardo. A second option would renovate Lillie B. Haynes, close Center School and raze Flanders in order to build a new facility at its site.

Under a third option, the three elementary school buildings would close, and one main elementary school complex would replace them. The complex would include two sections, one for the lower grades and one for the upper grades.

All three schools have facility issues that must be addressed, but Lombardo said the school district must first determine an overall plan for the elementary schools. It would not make sense to fix a school's old, energy-inefficient windows if the district plans to later close that school, he said.

New infrastructure for technology, handicap accessibility, amplification systems and common areas for collaboration were among the requested features the Schools Facilities Vision Committee presented to the Board of Education in March, according to its presentation on the district's website.

The task force of about 30 people, including teachers, parents and administrators, worked on determining options, Lombardo said.

The facility choice could affect annual expenditures on school personnel and materials. For example, the number of elementary schools open would affect the number of libraries and librarians needed within the district, according to Lombardo.

The financial aid the district receives from the state for the project will depend on its enrollment projections, he said.

The schedule for the construction project has not been determined, but Lombardo said the project is not yet "at a critical juncture."

Lombardo wrote a letter to the community explaining that a "district feasibility study" in 2010 found "significant structural, educational, and aesthetic issues" at the district's schools, especially at the elementary schools.

At tonight's forum, the architecture firm Kaestle Boos Associates, will explain the problems within the facilities and new proposals for the district. The forum will then break into small group discussions moderated by the Facilities Vision Committee.

The committee will meet again before reporting to the Board of Education in November.

k.drelich@theday.com

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