East Lyme gathering weighs elementary school options

East Lyme - The district's elementary school facilities are aging and facing problems that range from deteriorating masonry, outdated fire-safety systems and a lack of ventilation, according to a presentation by the architecture firm Kaestle Boos Associates at a community forum Wednesday.

Some of the brick walls are cracking, as they were not constructed to accommodate temperature changes. Certain doors are too narrow to allow wheelchairs. Some windows are energy-inefficient.

Repairing these issues could cost the district between $11 to $14 million, according to representatives from Kaestle Boos.

Making minimum of repairs at the schools was one of several options presented at the forum, at Flanders Elementary School. A district feasibility study found structural problems in the schools, and the district is now considering several plans of action, including one to renovate or build anew the school facilities.

The construction would make the schools compliant with the American with Disabilities Act and with building standards for ventilation, energy and fire safety.

A task force is working with the community to present feedback to the Board of Education.

One option presented would completely renovate the Niantic Center, Lillie B. Haynes and the Flanders elementary schools for an estimated net cost to the district of $49,298,028.

Another option would renovate Lillie B. Haynes and Flanders as new and close Center School for $34,832,911. A third option would renovate Lillie B. Haynes, close Center School and build a new facility at the site of Flanders School for $47,012,194.

A final option would build a brand-new, two-building elementary school complex that would replace all three current buildings for $36,376,667.

The net costs included the state aid that the town would receive, which depends on the number of students enrolled and the space used. If any of the schools are closed, the facilities would be returned to the town.

Lombardo said the school district is still in the early stages of considering the proposals. The school board has not yet met to discuss them.

Some parents and teachers at the forum said health and safety needs should be addressed first. Others asked to see specific numbers when told changes to elementary school facilities would help accommodate declining enrollment numbers in the district.

John Arnold, who has a daughter in second grade at the Niantic Center School, said he was in favor of maintaining three schools. He said after the meeting that parents become more engaged at small community schools, which in turn help the children's education.

"The kids get the sense and the lesson that education is really crucial," he said. "I think that is the foundation that our town's educational success has been built on."

Bill Derry, a parent with children at Niantic Center School, said the school's location allows students to participate in important town activities, such as visits to the town greens.



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