North Stonington's homespun school opens, state made it possible
Congratulations, North Stonington, your new Wheeler Middle/High School that opened this week looks lovely. There is updated technology and more space. Our first-day photos depicted students, parents and administrators filled with enthusiasm.
To be honest, however, we would like this school to one day be looked back on as an anachronism, the way Connecticut used to do things when it still thought it could afford to indulge such parochialism.
The need to replace or overhaul the old schools was never in dispute. The discussion about building new schools for the small town began 13 years ago. Even back then the facilities were recognized as inadequate for modern educational needs and in poor condition.
Perhaps having new schools will persuade some young families to move into town in the coming years, maintaining school enrollments that would make this investment a bit more justifiable.
The new middle/high school will serve students in grades seven through 12. Next, the existing elementary school will be rebuilt as new.
We remain convinced, however, that it would have been more frugal to invest in a renovated elementary school and sign a deal to educate town high school students at the Stonington High School, which could have easily accommodated the student body of about 200. Stonington High opened in 2004.
Of course, if voters give the OK, North Stonington can spend its money building what it wants. But the thing is, Connecticut contributed about $17.5 million toward construction of the $38.5 million school building project. The state must start saying no to helping pay for schools, or other local projects for that matter, if sensible regional alternatives are available at significantly less cost.
Emotions run high when the talk is about community schools. One sign held aloft by a woman during the debate that led up to the second and final vote for the project in February 2018 summed it up well: “We are Mama Lions protecting our cubs. Build it! #we’re Wheeler.”
If the state weren’t kicking in 45 percent of the cost of a new school, would the mama lion have more seriously considered letting her high school cubs travel to the neighboring den in Stonington? Perhaps not, but for sure some elderly town lions might have voted differently.
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