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    Wednesday, June 19, 2024

    Stonington school board votes to move middle school to Pawcatuck

    Stonington ― Amid structural concerns regarding Stonington Middle School, students in grades 6 through 8 will spend the upcoming school year at the old Pawcatuck Middle School.

    “I think that’s the only path forward at this point,” said school board member Christopher Donahue. “For the time being, it’s the safest and best decision.”

    The Board of Education’s unanimous vote on Wednesday came after the district’s new facilities director, Stephen Carroll, notified Superintendent Mary Anne Butler of problems he discovered with the foundation of the Mistuxet Avenue school in mid-April.

    Further investigation revealed that a section of the second floor needs to be replaced and that a section of the first floor is sagging due to the weight of environmental systems and utilities. In addition, asbestos remediation is necessary, and foundation issues need further study.

    Engineers with civil engineering firm Fuss and O’Neill, who inspected the school in April, found no immediate safety concerns, but said the amount of cracking, shifting and build-up of salt deposits on the second floor concrete slab is not typical, and that its condition is “concerning and should be addressed in the near future.”

    The firm will excavate beneath the building to determine the depth of the bedrock and install sensors in the building to monitor the structure over the course of the coming year.

    The future of the building was not decided at Wednesday’s meeting, and school board members noted that more information was needed before they make any decisions as to whether the school would need to be renovated or replaced. It was last renovated and expanded in 1997.

    Board member Kevin Agnello said that a full study of the structural issues at the Mystic school would take time, and relocating students to Pawcatuck would buy the board time to make deliberative, informed decisions about how to move forward in the short and long term.

    Superintendent Mary Anne Butler said that she has begun discussions with the district’s transportation company about what bus routes will look like in the fall and started to investigate potential options for relocating the District Office, currently located in the former Pawcatuck Middle School on Field Street.

    Additionally, she said a paving project and boiler replacement at the Mystic school had already been canceled, freeing up money in the school budget to cover costs associated with relocating the district office, administration and staff and digitizing extensive school records.

    She said the excavation work at the Stonington Middle School would be conducted over the summer, but all other work would be put on hold while the engineers monitor the structural issues to determine the extent of work needed.

    Parents who spoke during public comment broadly approved of the decision and said they anticipated students would be at the Pawcatuck school for more than one year.

    According to information provided at the meeting, based on present elementary school enrollment, the Field Street school has the capacity to house students for at least the next five years.

    The school board also decided to end the middle school year one day early, with a half day on June 18, so that faculty and staff have a day to pack and prepare for the move.

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