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Groton school plan on state priority list

Groton — The $184.4 million school construction plan in Groton made it onto the priority list of projects forwarded by the state Department of Administrative Services to Gov. Dannel Malloy and the General Assembly on Thursday.

Placement on the list means the town could proceed with hiring an architect to design the schools, said state Rep.-elect Christine Conley, D-40th District.

“This is a big, big step,” Conley said Friday.

In November, voters approved the plan to build one new middle school adjacent to Robert E. Fitch High School and convert Carl C. Cutler and West Side middle schools into renovated elementary schools.

The priority list specifies the cost of the three school projects and the state reimbursement Groton could receive for each. So far, the district qualifies for state reimbursement of 57.5 percent for each of the renovated elementary schools and 47.5 percent for the new middle school.

That translates into reimbursement of $97 million for the total project cost of $184.4 million. But Groton also plans to apply to the state Department of Education for an 80 percent diversity grant due to a racial imbalance.

If approved, state reimbursement would increase by about $10.3 million. Based on school enrollment as of Oct. 1, 2016 — the date used by the state to compile enrollment data across districts — Groton showed a racial imbalance at Claude Chester Elementary School. But the town cannot actually apply for the diversity grant until the state officially accepts those numbers.

Conley discussed the Groton school project on Thursday with other newly elected legislators, Department of Administrative Services Commissioner Melody A. Currey, her staff, Groton Town Manager Mark Oefinger and a representative of the Groton school administration.

“We were delighted to hear that Groton was already on the list,” Superintendent Michael Graner said. Currey’s staff explained that since the district “received local authorization through the referendum, that Groton was well positioned to move forward,” he said.

The next step would be for the Town Council to decide whether to hire an architect to design the schools. Once a project is placed on the priority list, a community has two years to break ground on the project.

Groton’s school plan would close three of Groton's oldest buildings — Claude Chester, S.B. Butler and Pleasant Valley elementary schools.

d.straszheim@theday.com

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