Stonington officials ready to address issue of aging elementary schools

Stonington - The K-12 School Building Committee took its first steps on Tuesday night toward putting together a plan to renovate and expand the town's aging elementary schools.

Committee members agreed that they need to update the 2011 educational specifications developed for the project. The specifications will eventually be given to an architect to design a plan to present to voters for approval.

These include adding information about security and entrance requirements at each school, space requirements, storage needs, technology upgrades, office space for central office staff and school-based health centers.

The committee also plans to hold meetings at the beginning of May with staff members at Deans Mill, West Broad Street and West Vine Street schools so they can offer input on what they would like to see incorporated in the plans.

"I think the staff will jump to attend these meetings. They want to see this go through," said committee member Julie Holland.

The committee also plans to visit recently built elementary schools in Groton and Waterford to see what aspects of those schools they might want to include in its plan. The committee also plans to seek input from parents and residents.

The committee plans to meet again on May 14 after it talks to staff and visits the schools.

Committee members agreed that once they complete the educational specifications, they can move forward with asking the Board of Finance to approve up to $50,000 to hire an architect for the design and to come up with a cost estimate.

The committee hopes that the town may be able to transfer unspent money in the current budget to cover the cost.

The finance board has opposed going forward with a project in the past, most recently in 2009 and 2011, because it did not want to add to the town's debt.

While the committee will not decide on the scope of the project for a few months, the 2011 plan called for doing most of the work at West Vine Street School, which would be renovated and expanded to also accommodate students from West Broad Street School. The 113-year-old West Broad Street School would then closed.

The committee is also considering the possibility of closing the School Administration Building and moving those offices to one or more of the schools. Deans Mill School and the two middle schools would also be upgraded.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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