Some kindergarten, pre-K students to use New London Harbor School

New London - Harbor School, the more-than-100-year-old former school building on Montauk Avenue, will be used again next school year to house some kindergarten and pre-kindergarten classrooms.

The relocation, the district said in a statement Tuesday, will make available more classroom space as the district's enrollment continues to rise, allow early education students with special needs to be educated in the district rather than being sent elsewhere and support expansions in early childhood education.

"The importance of early childhood education for all students will set our youngest students on a trajectory for success," Chief Academic Officer Katherine Ericson said. "This groundwork at the earliest levels of public education for our students will enable their future teachers to further develop their skills."

The district has not determined which pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students from its three elementary schools will move into Harbor School, but said in the statement it "is currently evaluating options that will be fair and equitable to all students, parents and school staff."

To accommodate the students, nine classrooms on the first floor of the newest wing of the building will be refurbished. The plans are the result of a facility needs assessment conducted by the district and the Capitol Region Education Council last month.

"We've taken a checklist from the city, and we've gone through every step on that checklist to make sure that we're in total compliance with (National Electrical Code) regulations, air quality requirements or anything else," Superintendent Nicholas A. Fischer said.

When the plans were presented to the Board of Education on Tuesday evening, a handful of board members raised concerns about the air quality in the building.

Timothy Wheeler, the district's chief information officer and interim director of operations, said that a full air quality test will be conducted before any students move into the building, and the test results will be posted on the district's website.

"We'll work with the city to make sure all fire codes and all other safety codes will be taken care of," Wheeler said. "So we feel that that environment will be conducive to have our kids go there and be a safe environment for our children."

Wheeler said the building needs work on the exterior, too. Pavement around the school is cracked and fences are falling down.

"All of that would be replaced, the fields would be all new, the playground area would be checked for safety, cleaned, fresh mulch, it will look completely different," he said. "It'll look better than it has in the past 20 years, I think the neighborhood will be quite proud of that area."

The district expects to pay for the renovations with about $235,000 that went unspent in the 2013-14 education budget and some funds from the current year's budget.

School officials said the district will hold a meeting later this month to discuss the relocation with parents of kindergarten and pre-kindergarten students. The date and time for that meeting have not yet been determined.

c.young@theday.com

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