Groton Board of Education approves middle school plans

Groton — The Board of Education on Monday unanimously approved the final plans and cost estimates for the new consolidated 155,000-square-foot middle school near Fitch High School.

Superintendent Michael Graner said the vote "has been five years in the making."

With the board's endorsement of the plans, school officials will now submit the official paperwork on Jan. 15 to the state Department of Administrative Services Office of School Construction Grants & Review for approval, Graner said.

The state will then review the plans and a checklist of requirements the project needs to meet before it can go out to bid, said Jack Butkus, project manager with Arcadis, the firm assisting the town with the project.

Voters had approved a $184.5 million schools project, with $100 million reimbursement anticipated from the state, for a new middle school and two new elementary schools. Of that total cost, the middle school was anticipated to cost $90 million, Graner said.

The middle school is currently estimated to cost approximately $86.09 million, Butkus said Monday. The state reimbursement is anticipated at 47.5 percent, said Graner.

Board of Education member Rita Volkmann said she'd like to see solar panels as part of the buildings. Butkus and Rick Norris, project manager for the town Public Works department, said solar panels are not part of the educational specifications for the project and the state would not reimburse the town for them. However, the project will include infrastructure investments by providing conduits to the electrical room that will allow the later installation of solar panels on part of the building, should they be added to the project.

Solar panels are among a list of wanted items that could be added if they are approved and funding allows. There are also grants or power purchase agreements the district could explore.

Volkmann said she hopes solar plans will be at the top of the list because they will save the district money in the long run.

Graner said there's "huge community support" for solar panels.

"Even if it's just a modest part of the building for educational purposes, it would be terrific to have solar panels," he said.

Last month, architects had presented the designs for the facility at the former Merritt Farm site at Fort Hill and Groton Long Point roads. The middle school will accommodate both the arts and humanities curriculum, which are currently being offered at Cutler Arts and Humanities Magnet Middle School and the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program, which is currently at West Side STEM Magnet Middle School.

The new middle school will house art, graphic arts and A/V production rooms, a black-box theater, makerspace and engineering labs, a library/media center, a movement studio, fitness room and gymnasium, among other features, architects said during last month's presentation.

The anticipated date to break ground on the school is March 25, Graner said.

k.drelich@theday.com

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