Groton voters again support elementary schools' plan
Groton — At Monday's referendum, residents again supported a revised plan to build two new elementary schools, rather than convert the current middle schools into elementary schools.
The vote was 1,132-265.
Superintendent Michael Graner said he was delighted that community members again supported the construction of two brand new elementary schools, which he said will provide great value to the town and will serve the education of children in the community for decades to come.
"I am grateful to the citizens of Groton who have voted to support the education of our children, and I look forward to exciting learning opportunities these buildings will provide," he said.
He said the buildings, slated to open in 2021, will be "modern learning centers that provide far more value to the town then would've been available through renovation."
Monday's vote represented the third referendum on the Groton 2020 plan, and the third time voters have voted to support it.
In 2016, voters approved the $184.5 million Groton 2020 plan, with $100 million in state reimbursement, to build a consolidated middle school near Robert E. Fitch High School, renovate the existing middle schools into "like new" elementary schools, and close three older elementary schools: Claude Chester, S.B. Butler and Pleasant Valley. Pleasant Valley has since closed in 2017.
In December 2018, voters supported amending the plan so the town could build two new elementary school buildings, rather than convert the current middle school buildings into elementary schools. The second referendum came after the state changed its guidelines and it was determined that new buildings would be more cost efficient. New buildings would cost the same price as renovations, but would last longer and be designed specifically for elementary school students, Graner has said.
But the legal notice for the December referendum was published in the newspaper only 20 days before the referendum, rather than the 30 days required by the state — making another referendum necessary.
Town Manager John Burt said Monday that he is grateful to the voters for supporting the new elementary schools, which will be built on the sites of the existing middle schools.
"It makes sense to build new to best suit the needs of our students rather than to try to modify outdated buildings that would never meet the same standards. I'm excited that we finally have everything in place to allow us to move forward with all three school projects," he said.
Construction has already started on the new consolidated middle school on the former Merritt Farm property and is expected to be completed in June 2020.
On Monday, some voters objected to the overall price tag of the Groton 2020 plan, but others said the project has already been voted on and they are supporting building two new elementary schools, rather than having renovated buildings.
"If the state says for the same amount of money or less you can get brand-new buildings, you might as well," said voter Nancy Clang.
"I just think we need to get our schools upgraded in town," added voter Shawn Cabral. He said it's better for the students and it helps families to be able to have facilities that support all the extracurricular activities, from band to sports.
In the uncontested City of Groton municipal election, also held on Monday, Mayor Keith Hedrick was elected to a second term, and incumbent City Councilors Jamal Beckford, Rashaad Carter, Gweneviere Depot and Jill Rusk and first-term candidates Lisa McCabe and Minerva Ortiz were elected to the City Council.
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