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CLINTON - A handful of residents showed up to the first of three Long Range Facility Study meetings late last month to learn about the important study that will impact the town and the school system for years to come. Enrollment numbers, school building size and conditions, and future technology and learning needs are the focus of the five month study.
This first meeting was intended to gather residents' current concerns and decipher what needs should and will be addressed in the study.
"We have learned a lot about your community and worked through the summer in Clinton gathering information," explained James Barrett of Drummey Rosane Anderson Inc., Planning Architecture Interior Design of South Windsor, Connecticut. "Now we are here to hear from you."
"The study has become much larger than we originally looked at," explained Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jack Cross. "We want to explore further where we need to be in the future in town with our technology, school safety and security, and the environmental aspect of the outside of the schools."
He added, "Right now this is a critical issue for us. The initial driver for the study was the decline in enrollment. We needed to know what we are looking at for the next 5 and 10 years in terms of planning from a pragmatic standpoint."
Speaking to that point, Ali Church, a planner from Milone & MacBroom of Cheshire Connecticut, brought along a chart identifying birth rates in Clinton as documented by the Connecticut Department of Public Health. An example of the decline in birth rate numbers is evident-in 2001 there were 184 births documented in Clinton; in 2012, just 99.
"We will be looking at data such as this and creating a population projection for the town in our study," explained Church. "We will also be looking at housing and employment trends."
She explained that in general Connecticut as a state has a declining population.
"Knowing all this will help us to help Clinton plan accordingly for the future of its schools," Church said.
Some concerns voiced by residents included bathroom conditions in some of the schools (primarily with accessibility and HVAC controls) as well the conditions of some external sports fields at the Joel School, most notably the lacrosse field. Also, the current traffic situation at the Pierson School, (with an increase in student drop offs and decrease in bus use) was brought up, as well as the safety of the windows at that school, which are big and low. Residents also asked about wireless technology and planning adjustments to accommodate an ever-changing student population.
The Long Range Facility Report will be finalized in January and presented to the Board of Education for review and action at that time.
Christine Goupil, a member of the Clinton Planning & Zoning Commission, said the meeting was very useful.
"I think what they are studying is something that needs to be addressed in town. Everyone has concerns about tax issues and how all school projects will be paid for, especially if they don't have children in the school system," she said.
"It is absolutely invaluable to have town's people involved in this process, so I encourage everyone to get involved and come to the meetings. This affects a big chunk of people in town and we are not that big of a town," she added.
Board of Education member Ethelene DiBona said, "I found the meeting very interesting and a lot of ideas were voiced that we don't always hear at the board level. Being prepared to adjust to our town's changing needs in the future is going to be beneficial for everyone."
Assistant Superintendent of Schools Maryann O'Donnell explained, "Taking a holistic approach to studying this issue will be very useful to the Board of Education and the school district. Getting an outside perspective on our needs and options, that involves the comments and concerns of the community, the parents and the students, will be very helpful in this process."
The next Facility Study meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. in the Board of Education meeting room.