Norwich school facilities committee to go on tour

Norwich — The new School Facilities Review Committee plans to tour several city schools during the day before the school year ends and come fall will rotate evening meetings among the different buildings to allow community members to attend in their neighborhoods.

The committee, appointed by the City Council in March, is tasked with studying the conditions of the city’s 15 school buildings and developing a consolidation and renovation plan. The 11-member committee in April received copies of a rejected school renovation plan that also included detailed reports on the physical conditions of the buildings.

Superintendent Abby Dolliver, an ex-officio member of the committee, urged the group to tour the schools during the day to see how classrooms and common areas function. Dolliver will set up the tour, which likely will include several buildings in one day, and will send invitations to committee members.

“It’s just different without kids,” Dolliver said of the recommendation to tour buildings during the day.

Committee members also plan to rotate evening meetings among the schools to give community members a chance to see the different buildings. School officials said they would prefer to do that once the new school year starts, rather than during the disruptive summer, when classrooms and libraries might be cluttered with boxes.

The committee’s 6 p.m. June 6 meeting will be held at the Kelly Middle School community room.

Alderman Joseph DeLucia said the committee will need a contact list of parent-teacher organization members and other community groups to be able to spread the word about the committee’s activities. Notices for the school tours and meetings also will be sent to city department heads and fire departments.

Committee members said while families tend to be adamant about keeping their schools, the project likely will include closing four or five current school buildings. The remaining buildings would have to be "renovated as new," since nearly all city school buildings need significant upgrades.

Committee member Paula Rosenberg Bell said it also will be important to involve city officials to work on possible future plans for vacated buildings to make sure they are marketed for redevelopment rather than become vacant, vandalized blighted buildings. Mayor Peter Nystrom, an ex-officio committee member, agreed and said that component was missing from the previous committee and final proposal. He assured that city leaders will be involved with the new committee.

Dolliver said advocates of creating a community center in Norwich also need to be included in the discussion, because a vacated school building could be converted into a community center. 

The group also plans to circulate a survey in the community soliciting ideas for the future structure of the city school system. The committee will work on possible survey questions at the June meeting.

Bettencourt said in its planning, the committee must consider projections on what the future of physical schools could look like 20 to 40 years from now. While the committee won’t be responsible for equipping school buildings with technology, the buildings should be designed with future education trends in mind.

c.bessette@theday.com

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