Groton to decide fate of former middle school

Groton - The Board of Education wants to turn the former Fitch Middle School over to the town, and town leaders must now decide what to do with it.

The board closed the school in June 2012 to consolidate from three middle schools to two and save money. After Fitch Middle closed, the town's parks and recreation department started using the gym, and other groups such as the Fitch High School robotics club and Groton Regional Theater expressed interest in using it.

But expanding use of the building may not be easy.

The school board learned earlier this winter that so much time has gone by since the school closed that it could not be used as classroom "swing space" during future construction unless the building was first brought up to fire code.

School board member Pat Doyle said she didn't know how much that would cost, but it would be significant.

Because of this and the cost of maintaining the building, she said the school board voted Nov. 12 to turn it over to the town, notifying Town Manager Mark Oefinger of its decision Dec. 1.

The issue was raised Wednesday during a liaison committee meeting of the City Council, Town Council, Representative Town Meeting and Board of Education.

It was unclear what upgrades would be required for non-educational programs in the building.

"It just seems like such a mess," Town Councilor Bruce Flax said after the meeting. He said the town could get stuck with a former school that needs expensive upgrades or has to come down.

"We're stuck with a quagmire again," he said.

In cases of other former schools, the town has formed committees to recommend the best use of the properties.

Town Manager Mark Oefinger could not be reached Wednesday.

d.straszheim@theday.com

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