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Groton task force favors new middle school

By Deborah Straszheim

Publication: The Day

Published July 26. 2013 4:00AM
Three options remain in play; cost estimates expected next month

Groton - The task force planning Groton's school construction narrowed its options Thursday to three: Build one new middle school and turn the existing middle schools into elementary schools; keep West Side and Cutler Middle schools open, making modest improvements, and build two new elementary schools instead; or renovate West Side and Cutler middle schools as new.

The plans would close Claude Chester, S.B. Butler and Pleasant Valley elementary schools.

Mayor Heather Bond Somers, a member of the task force, said whatever plan the group chooses, it has to sell it.

"If we are going to be an entire town, we have to get rid of this east coast, west coast Groton," she said.

Mike Zuba, an educational consultant with the firm Milone & MacBroom, is expected to return to the School Facilities Initiative Task Force on Aug. 22 with cost estimates for each plan and potential sites for new schools.

Zuba said the group has about 40 possible sites, fewer than half of which are owned by the town. The rest would have to be purchased.

The first option - and the clear favorite among committee members - would build one new middle school for students in grades six to eight, renovate Cutler and West Side as elementary schools for students in pre-kindergarten to fifth grade, and close Claude Chester, S.B. Butler and Pleasant Valley elementary schools.

The second option would maintain Cutler and West Side Middle schools for grades six to eight, making basic improvements, and instead build two new elementary schools for students in pre-kindergarten to fifth grade. One elementary school would be built on the east side of town and one on the west side, to take students from Claude Chester, S.B. Butler and Pleasant Valley, which would close.

The third option would renovate the two existing middle schools as new, bringing Cutler and West Side up to today's standards. The plan could also build two new elementary schools to replace Claude Chester, S.B. Butler and Pleasant Valley, though this was expected to be priced as a separate item.

Councilor Deb Peruzzotti, a task force member, said the group must also consider how much the state would reimburse the town for each scenario.

On Monday, a majority of Groton school board members said they support building one middle school rather than two, and adding pre-kindergarten to the districts' elementary schools.

The school board didn't take a formal vote, but six of the eight board members present said they would support a single middle school. One board member strongly supported two middle schools instead, and one said she supported two middle schools but could be convinced to back one if data supported it.

d.straszheim@theday.com

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