Norwich school board reviews school renovation, consolidation plan

Norwich — The Board of Education on Tuesday voted to accepted the proposed school renovation and consolidation plan. 

It calls for renovating three elementary schools and one middle school as new, building one new elementary school, closing and selling five school buildings and reusing two others for offices, adult education and special education programs.

The School Facilities Review Committee adopted the proposal as its final recommendation to the Board of Education and City Council in August and recommended dissolving the committee and establishing a formal school building committee. That committee would work with an architect to come up with cost estimates and seek state approval for partial reimbursement in time to present the plan to Norwich voters in November 2020.

The Board of Education was not required to endorse the report, Superintendent Kristen Stringfellow said, but the board voted 8-1 to accept the report, and then gave a round of applause to the committee for its work. School board members Patricia Staley and board Chairwoman Yvette Jacaruso served on the facilities committee.

School Facilities Review Committee Chairman Mark Bettencourt told the school board Tuesday that the committee’s work really is a draft proposal. He said the committee had no money for engineering or architectural studies, so some proposals might need to be adjusted or scrapped if deemed not feasible.

The plan calls for renovating as new the John B. Stanton, John Moriarty and Uncas elementary schools and building a fourth new elementary school, all to house preschool through fifth-grade students. The proposed new school building should accommodate 300 to 600 students.

The Teachers’ Memorial Middle School would be renovated as new for grades six through eight, while the recently renovated Kelly Middle School would remain as is for grades six through eight.

The two current preschool centers, the Bishop School and Deborah Tenant-Zinewicz School on Case Street, would be closed and listed for sale. Bishop also currently houses several school offices and technical departments, which would move to the Samuel Huntington School, which would close as an elementary school. Administrative offices would be consolidated at Huntington, which also would house the Norwich Transition Academy, a vocational program for special education students aged 18 to 21.

The Thomas Mahan elementary would be closed and listed for sale. The building, located off Route 82 in the city’s prime commercial district, is considered valuable for commercial development.

The central office building, the historic 1895 former John Mason School at the Norwichtown Green, also would be closed and listed for sale. The Hickory Street School, which now houses the Norwich Transition Academy, would be listed for sale.

Wequonnoc School in Taftville would close, with the arts and technology magnet school program moving to the renovated Moriarty environmental magnet school. But Wequonnoc would house adult education and the virtual learning program for expelled students.

The status of the Veterans’ Memorial elementary school remains in question in the proposal; whether it closes or is renovated would be contingent upon future enrollment projections.

c.bessette@theday.com

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