East Lyme - As the town begins the process of determining the future of the town's elementary schools, the Board of Education last week outlined a path to making a decision.
The board stressed, in a draft presentation last Monday, that doing the "best thing for our kids and our community" should determine the steps.
Analyzing the needs for the elementary school buildings began in 2010 when the board commissioned a study of the schools' facilities. The town's five-year capital plan included many "repairs and upgrades" to the elementary schools. The last facilities' assessment had occurred more than two decades earlier, according to board Chairman Timothy Hagen in a slideshow presentation titled "Selecting a Path Forward for Our Elementary School Facilities."
In presenting the new study's findings in 2011, the architectural firm Kaestle Boos Associates projected that renovating the three elementary schools, the buildings most in need of repairs, would cost about $17.8 million that the state would not reimburse.
The district's facilities vision committee formed in the fall of 2011 to form a "vision" for the district's elementary schools based on reasons, such as educational and maintenance benefits and the impact on students, families and the annual general fund.
In April, the task force presented to the school board its "findings report," which included survey data from teachers and students among other information. Its top recommendation was renovating "as new" Flanders Elementary School and Lillie B. Haynes and closing Niantic Center School. The second preferred option was closing all three schools and building a new complex. The third option was renovating all three schools as new.
The process of renovating as new or building as new - or a combination of the two - could consist of four phases, according to the draft presentation. The first step, which could last about six months, would entail hiring a design firm and holding public forums. The district and community would consider the number of students in each classroom and if redistricting would occur, among other factors.
The second phase, about six months to a year, would consist of designing the building or buildings, obtaining cost estimates, seeking town approval for bonding and submitting documents to the state for reimbursement.
The third phase, about eight months to a year, would include going out to bid for the project and determining logistics, such as where students would attend classes during construction.
Construction, the final phase, could last between about 18 months and two years.