New London schools submit plans for magnet school campus

New London — The school district met a Nov. 1 deadline and has submitted a plan to the state for the second part of the centerpiece of the district’s future all-magnet school system.

Plans for the second of two planned campuses to host grades 6-12 is now in the hands of the state Department of Administrative Services and is expected to be placed on the state’s priority list and recommended for state funding.

Kate McCoy, the district’s executive director for strategic planning, said the plan that was submitted solidifies Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School as the $49 million campus for a future leadership magnet pathway — one of four planned magnet pathways.

The plans call for some of the existing structure on Waller Street to be torn down and other parts to be renovated. Plans do not include renovations to the adjoining central office, where district administration is located.

The plan was on the priority list last year but was pulled before bonding was approved by the state legislature because it was not shovel ready.

Konstantinos Diamantis, director of the DAS office of School Construction Grants and Reviews, said DAS does not make a final determination on whether funding is approved — that is up to the state legislature.

DAS determines if projects are viable, necessary and have been reviewed by the state Department of Education for programmatic compliance.

Diamantis said a focus under DAS Commissioner Melody Currey is to ensure projects are shovel ready within two years of approval. Part of the reason, he said, is because of the potential for escalation of costs as time passes.

“We want to make sure schools are built within costs and on time so taxpayers receive the benefit of the dollar,” Diamantis said. “We make our best efforts to see that occurs.”

In total, the school district was approved by taxpayers to spend $165 million for construction of two campuses at an 80 percent reimbursement rate from the state. The first stage of construction will occur at the north campus on the grounds of New London High School off Jefferson Avenue.

With the loss of the Garde Arts Center as a partner for the arts magnet program, plans for the $98 million north campus still need to be revised to accommodate three rather than two magnet pathways. The district will seek state and local approval to use to the $31 million associated with the Garde project at the north campus.

The city is likely to have to approve borrowing more than $6 million, or 20 percent of the $31 million, since the new project is expected to be funded at 80 percent rather than 100 percent.

The fact that construction has yet to start on either school has not stopped the district from establishing the magnet school pathways. Bennie Dover now serves as the home of STEM and arts magnet pathways and this year started a language and culture/leadership pilot program where New London students are getting a sampling of the two future magnet pathways.

g.smith@theday.com

Editor's Note: This version clarifies that the submitted plans are for the second of the two planned magnet school campuses.

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