At groundbreaking, community celebrates Groton Middle School project years in the making
Groton — Groton Board of Education Chair Kim Shepardson Watson said she remembers as a fledgling on the board the discussions about the importance of bringing Groton together into one space, but never thought it could happen.
But on Tuesday afternoon she and other officials and community members gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony at the future site of the new Groton Middle School, where heavy machinery was already at work. She noted the efforts by many people over the years toward creating the Groton 2020 plan to bring equity into the school system.
The middle school, which will be located adjacent to Robert E. Fitch High School and will serve all of Groton's middle school students, is expected to be completed by June 2020.
Watson said that though she cares about what the building will look like, for her, it's what's going to happen on the inside of the structure that's really important.
"It's going to be the learning. It's going to be the teaching. It's going to be bringing groups of people together and making us as a community really proud," she said.
State Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, thanked everyone who made the project possible over the years.
"When we talked about having the groundbreaking ceremony today, I was thinking back and it's hard to believe that almost eight years ago in 2011, when I was the mayor, we set up the first school planning task force, and there's been so many people that have been involved in getting this to the point where it is right now, where we’re going to be pouring concrete, I just heard, in a few days," she said.
Somers said none of it could be possible without the dedication of so many individuals that "stayed the course" over those eight years. She praised those who came together and supported the project, including project leaders, teachers, parents, administrators, students, community members and elected officials.
Somers presented Watson, Superintendent Michael Graner, and Town Manager John Burt with a citation from the General Assembly — which she had introduced with Reps. Christine Conley and Joe de la Cruz, both D-Groton — congratulating Groton on the project.
She also encouraged everyone to vote during the May 6 referendum on revising the Groton 2020 plan so the town can build two new elementary schools, rather than convert the existing middle schools into elementary schools. Though voters already approved the revised plan in December, another referendum needs to be held because the December referendum didn't meet the 30-day legal requirement for notification.
Town Mayor Patrice Granatosky thanked all the people from all different parts of the process who came together to finally make it happen. She said Conley and de la Cruz couldn't make the ceremony because they are in session in Hartford, but have done amazing work along with Somers.
"This building is going to be amazing," Permanent School Building Committee Chairman Robert Austin-LaFrance said, as he stood by other members of the committee.
Graner said so many people gathered at the ceremony worked so hard for so many years to bring the Groton 2020 vision to life and then to get the referendum passed.
He said providing a high-quality, equitable education for all the middle schoolers in Groton is the driving force behind the project. The new consolidated school will feature magnet-themed pathways to provide socio-economic diversity within the classroom.
After the speeches, local officials and community members broke ground with shovels on the site and posed for photos on the sunny afternoon.
"This is the day we've been waiting eight years to celebrate, and the weather is just the exclamation point on a truly marvelous experience," Graner said.