State recommends Groton receive 80% reimbursement for school building

Groton — One of Groton’s three school construction projects was changed Thursday from a renovation to a diversity school, which means the town will receive 80 percent state reimbursement if the legislature passes the statewide school construction bill.

“This is a major, major accomplishment for our town and our school system,” Superintendent Michael Graner said.

The Groton 2020 plan calls for building a new middle school, renovating the town’s existing two middle schools and turning them into elementary schools. The changed designation will allow Groton to receive an additional $10.3 million for construction at what is now Carl C. Cutler Middle School.

Groton’s school construction plan calls for consolidating from ten schools to eight schools.

Melody Currey, the commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services, met with the co-chairs of the education committee Thursday afternoon and informed Graner of the decision Thursday evening.

Graner said Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, and Reps. Joe de la Cruz, D-Groton, and Christine Conley, D-Groton, lobbied for the change, as well. Former State Rep. Lenny Winkler also was in Hartford working with legislators, Graner said.

“It was really a remarkable team effort,” he said.

“The most encouraging part was the Department of Administrative Services said you have done everything we asked you to do,” Somers said. “They all understood the importance of this to Groton. It was a really positive moment to hear, ‘We are going to work with you.’”

While the school bonding bill must still pass the legislature, Somers said most of the schools elsewhere in the state already have been built and there is a view that Groton’s schools are part of an overall plan and cannot be separated.

The district’s school construction plan was approved by the state Board of Education to address an ongoing problem of racial imbalance in the schools. Groton created a magnet program and repeatedly redistricted to deal with the issue. Earlier this month, Groton again was cited by the state for a racial imbalance at Claude Chester Elementary School, which the new plan is designed to resolve.

d.straszheim@theday.com

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