The Bishop Early Learning Center (pictured), Norwich’s Thomas Mahan and Veterans’ Memorial elementary schools and the school district’s central offices in the former John Mason School all would be discontinued under the proposal, the Day noted. (Norwich Public Schools photo)
It would cost taxpayers in Norwich, Conn. more to have maintenance and repairs done to the city's seven existing, but aged, elementary schools than to build four new schools, architects told a small gathering at a public presentation on the $381 million proposal, according to the Day, a daily news source in nearby New London.
After an estimated 67 percent state reimbursement, Norwich city taxpayers' share of the multi-million project would be $149 million. But if the city chose a "do nothing" option, representatives from Drummey Rosane Anderson Inc. (DRA) in Waltham, Mass., said necessary repairs alone to the seven old elementary schools and one older middle school would cost an estimated $165 million over the next 20 years, with "precious little" state reimbursement.
The architects also estimated that even if the city chose to renovate the existing buildings, the cost would be comparable to building new schools, and in the end, only three of the seven primary schools would be large enough to meet current education needs.
Following the presentation, the Norwich School Building Committee on June 28 unanimously endorsed a preliminary master plan that calls for new elementary schools to house about 525 students in preschool through fifth grade and to extensively renovate the Teachers' Memorial Global Studies Middle School.
In addition, the Day reported that new schools would be built on the grounds of the Moriarty Environmental Sciences Magnet School, the John B. Stanton School, the Uncas Elementary School and property where the Greeneville School once stood.
The proposal also calls for the Norwich school district's central offices to move, along with its Regional Adult Education classes, into the Samuel Huntington School, while the Wequonnoc Elementary School in Taftville would become a virtual learning center.
Along with those actions, Norwich's Thomas Mahan and Veterans' Memorial elementary schools, the Bishop Early Learning Center (Pre-K), and the school district's central offices in the former John Mason School all would be discontinued, the Day noted.
School Proposal Headed for November Referendum
Following the endorsement, the committee, along with Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom and three council members, set a schedule for more public presentations and potential City Council endorsement.
Another public information meeting is set for July 11 with a detailed presentation by the architects followed by questions and comments from the audience.
After that, the council hopes to introduce the formal ordinance to bond for the project at its July 18 meeting and hold a public hearing Aug. 1. The current schedule calls for putting the project before voters in a referendum on the Nov. 8 election ballot, according to the New London newspaper.
School Building Committee Chairman Mark Bettencourt said he was disappointed with the low turnout at the important presentation in late June on the future of the school system.
Those who were in attendance heard Gregory Smolley, the senior project manager of DRA, stress the costs of doing nothing about the old schools, compared to the proposed four new buildings and renovated middle school.
For his part, Bettencourt added that the Norwich School Building Committee needs to stress to the public the higher costs of trying to keep the existing, but inadequate, buildings going, with longer bus rides, cramped classrooms and inequitable education depending on a family's neighborhood.
School board member Mark Kulos said one problem that will be difficult to sell to voters is the entire $381 million cost must be placed on the referendum question, the Day reported. If the project is approved by the state, Norwich would be reimbursed at regular intervals as construction moves forward, added Smolley.
"What it comes down to is, it's $165 million over 20 years to repair schools that don't meet our needs," noted Stacy Gould, a Norwich alderwoman, and School Building Committee member, "or we spend $149 million to build schools that will meet our needs for the next 20 to 30 years. That's the apples-to-apples."
Today's top stories