LEARN seeks lease for Dual Language and Arts Magnet school to move to Fitch Middle

Groton — The educational group that runs the Dual Language and Arts Magnet Middle School in Waterford has asked to negotiate a lease with Groton to move the school to Fitch Middle School for the next two years.

The Town Council voted unanimously Tuesday to direct the town manager and town attorney to prepare a lease with the regional educational service center LEARN for a portion of Fitch Middle School in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years.

"Ideally it would be September, but we're open to whatever Groton is willing to negotiate with us," LEARN Executive Director Eileen Howley said Tuesday. The school enrolls 114 students and has a goal of enrolling 150. About half of the students come from New London and half are from the surrounding towns, according to the school director.

The school plans to use the right wing of the school and would discuss use of the cafeteria and use or sharing of the gym as part of the lease agreement, Howley said.

From Groton's standpoint, it would take the town two years anyway to develop a complete plan for Fitch Middle and secure the money to make that plan happen. The school board closed the school in June 2012 to consolidate students from three middle schools into two.

The Dual Language and Arts school, now on Daniels Avenue in Waterford, received a $1.4 million federal grant for school development, and needs to improve technology as part of this grant, school Director Peter DeLisa said.

The older elementary school building does not allow for the technology that a middle school facility could, he said.

School size is also an issue. "Next year we'll pretty much max out the space here," he said.

Howley said LEARN officials toured Fitch Middle in late March. She said the location was also a plus, as it allows for easier access to educational services such as the public library.

d.straszheim@theday.com

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