Ledyard weighing future of schools

Ledyard - Though a clear vision for the future of Ledyard Middle School has yet to materialize, the Board of Education has approved a long-term vision for several of the district's schools.

The Town Council scrapped its endorsement of a $45 million renovation of the middle school in April after questions about the price were raised. Since its removal from the May referendum ballot, the Board of Education's Facilities and Land Use Committee along with the town's Municipal Building Committee, which will now oversee the project, have debated what the project should look like.

The only thing town officials have seemed to agree on in recent months is that the aging school, whose open-cluster classroom setup presents a major safety concern, and interrupts instruction, is an immediate concern. The Board of Education has a four-phase plan.

Phase one calls for renovating the middle school "as new" and to add a sixth-grade wing. Other facets of the original plan, including a courtyard and the addition of preschool classrooms, remain up in the air.

Phase two would be to consolidate the town's three elementary schools into two. The previous middle school plan included this with the closure of Ledyard Center School, though town councilors have raised questions about removing a major source of traffic through the town's main drag, where many of its businesses are located.

Now, however, the elementary school piece could be addressed with one of two scenarios: closing Ledyard Center and consolidating students in the Gallup Hill School and Juliet W. Long, or closing the Gallup Hill School. Both of these plans would require a new wing to be added either to Ledyard Center or Gallup Hill.

Down the road, phases three and four call for the renovation of the Juliet W. Long School and the renovation or building of a new Ledyard High School.

The long-term facilities plan was requested by the Municipal Building Committee, which will make a presentation to the Town Council on Wednesday on this and another major building project - the $6.75 million police station voters approved in May. Superintendent Mike Graner said the plan was recommended to the Town Council on Thursday.

But Municipal Building Committee Chairman Pete McIntyre said that, less than a week before the Town Council meeting, committee members have yet to come to an agreement on what he called a "contentious" issue.

"Nobody really has a plan of how to approach it," he said.

The Board of Education's plan splits the middle school and elementary school plans into two parts, though Graner said the elementary school consolidation would ideally begin even before construction of the middle school is completed.

But McIntyre said the best tactic may be to package together the first three phases, including the Juliet W. Long renovation, in a bid to get the best state reimbursement rate - currently at 62 percent for this type of project - and to avoid presenting ambitious, costly projects to voters repeatedly every few years.

Still, McIntyre said he is hopeful the middle school will again be on the ballot by next May.

a.isaacs@theday.com

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