Options outlined as East Lyme considers repairing, replacing elementary schools

East Lyme - The Board of Education got its first look Tuesday at a task force's recommendations for the future of the district's elementary school buildings, which are considered in need of repair.

A proposal to renovate Flanders and Lillie B. Haynes schools "as new" and take the Niantic Center School "offline" is the East Lyme Public Schools Facilities Vision Task Force Committee's preferred option. The net cost of that proposal to taxpayers would be $34 million after state reimbursement.

The committee, consisting of about 25 residents including parents, teachers and administrators, studied options for the schools following a 2010 feasibility study commissioned by the school board that identified structural problems at the aging elementary schools.

The recommendation that received the second-highest level of support from the committee is to close the three schools and create a new elementary school complex at either Flanders or Lillie B. Haynes. The new school building could have "pods or wings that would feel like smaller schools," explained Superintendent James Lombardo. The net cost would be $36 million.

In presenting the results of the study, Lombardo shared the pros and cons of the options and emphasized that the presentation was the first step in a lengthy process.

Renovating two schools as new could fully accommodate the district's population, and having fewer schools would allow the district to better balance the number of students in each classroom, he said. It would also allow some reductions in maintenance costs, he said.

Building one complex would give the district the opportunity to design a new school facility that it could add onto over the years, if needed, Lombardo said. But that would mean losing the three small community school settings that parents said they valued.

Lombardo said the state offers a higher level of reimbursement when school districts renovate schools as new rather than build new.

In its report, the committee also provided the option of renovating all three schools for a total of $49.3 million.

Board of Education members emphasized to the public that this was the first time they were receiving the report and that they would carefully study it. They encouraged ongoing community discussion.

Chairman Tim Hagen also emphasized that the proposals were large undertakings that would require town approval.


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