Norwich committee endorses school restructuring plan

Norwich – The School Facilities Review Committee Monday reaffirmed its decision to support a restructuring project that would consolidate seven elementary schools to four renovated buildings, realign schools by grade level and close four other schools.

The committee voted 6-1 Monday in favor of the four-school renovation option, costing a total of $144.5 million, with an anticipated local cost of $57.6 million after state reimbursement. The plan calls for restructuring the schools into two schools with kindergarten through second grade, two schools with grades three to six and retaining the recently renovated Kelly Middle School for grades seven and eight.

Mahan School is often considered as a potential site for economic development – the school is located off Interstate 395 off Exit 11. An alternative plan would be to use Uncas School as the fourth elementary school, turning Mahan over to the city, the consultants said.

Committee Chairman Dennis Slopak cast the lone dissenting vote. Slopak had favored a plan to close all seven  elementary schools and build a large, single new school to accommodate all elementary school students.

The committee had voted in August to accept the report from the consultant team of JCJ Architecture, LEARN and O&G Industries that recommended the four-school renovation project, but Slopak said there was confusion over whether the group was just accepting the report rather than the project.

Monday's vote sets the stage for seeking approval from both the City Council and the Board of Education for the renovation project. The current schedule would have the City Council consider the project at the Dec. 5 meeting, and the Board of Education vote on the project at the Dec. 13 meeting. The city faces a Dec. 17 deadline to present its proposal to the state Department of Education to be considered for state funding reimbursement in the spring legislative session, Slopak said.

If that is approved, the project would be placed on the referendum ballot next November, Slopak said.

The School Facilities Review Committee was established by the City Council and is comprised of a combination of council, school board, city government and school officials. On Monday, Board of Education member Angelo Yeitz resigned from the committee. The school board is expected to recommend board Chairman Aaron “Al” Daniels next week to replace Yeitz.

The City Council in October voted to add three Norwich public school teachers to the committee. Teacher applicants will be interviewed next Monday by a City Council subcommittee and could be appointed to the committee by the council in December.

c.bessette@theday.com

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