Public comment sought Tuesday on proposed $379 million school project in Norwich
Norwich — Residents, parents and educators are invited to comment Tuesday night on a $379 million proposed school construction project that calls for four new elementary schools, major renovations to one middle school and relocating central offices.
After state reimbursement, the project would cost Norwich taxpayers an estimated $149 million.
The School Building Committee will hold a public informational meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Kelly Middle School. Project design officials Jim Barrett and Greg Smolley from architectural firm Drummey Rosane Anderson Inc., or DRA, will present an overview of the plan, and the committee will take questions and comments from the audience before voting on whether to endorse the project and forward it to the City Council.
The committee hopes the council will schedule a referendum on the project in conjunction with the Nov. 8 election.
The proposal calls for building four new elementary schools on existing school properties plus the former Greeneville School site, closing three other elementary schools. Teachers’ Memorial Global Studies Middle School would undergo extensive relocations. Central offices and adult education would move to Samuel Huntington School, which would close as an elementary school.
School Building Committee Chairman Mark Bettencourt said he realizes the project is costly but said without a major restructuring of schools, the city will face growing costs to maintain old, cramped building with unequal education opportunities for city students.
“These are difficult decisions,” Bettencourt said, “but the fact of the matter is, if we don’t do this, if we don’t pass this, we will be spending untold millions for capital improvements out of our own pockets, with no state assistance. And we’ll still have seven old buildings that are inadequate educationally. We lack parity now.”
Renovations needed at the Teachers’ Memorial Global Studies Middle School would be the costliest in the plan at $99 million, with the city’s cost after state reimbursement at $32.1 million.
Four new elementary schools each would house about 525 students in preschool through fifth grade. The grounds of the Moriarty Environmental Sciences Magnet School, the John B. Stanton School and Uncas School and property where the Greeneville School had stood were selected as the best sites.
School central offices would move along with adult education into the Huntington School. Wequonnoc School in Taftville would become a virtual learning center. The Thomas Mahan, Veterans’ Memorial, Bishop Early Learning Center and central offices in the former John Mason School all would be closed.
Recently renovated Kelly STEAM Middle School and post-high school vocational Norwich Transition Academy on Case Street would remain as is.