Elementary School Facilities Project
Questions and Answers
Elementary Schools Project Fact Sheet - April 7, 2016
Question: What is the rationale for only looking at two school options in our town? Whose mandate is this?
Answer: The Design Steering Committee spent countless meetings over the years looking at the various school options. You can access all of the information, meeting minutes, etc., on our website under the elementary school projects. There is no mandate with a two or three school option. It was the final recommendation of the committee to go with two schools mainly due to elementary enrollment numbers of 800 students.
Question: Have plans ever been considered for a three school option? If so, why isn't this not an option?
Answer: All options, number of schools, etc., were thoroughly vetted through the committee work over the years.
Question: Do you believe the priority is to have newer buildings rather than the ideal educational setting?
Answer: The priority is both and we can provide an ideal educational setting with two schools. Additionally, we are being fiscally responsible and finding a balance between need and cost.
Question: The website only discusses parent parking spaces, not total parking and our student count includes LEARN and Creative Playschool. We include those students because this is an issue of small school culture versus large school culture. Would you like to clarify your position about whether these programs will remain in the remodeled LBH building? If you do, we will adjust the website accordingly.
Answer: Regarding the parking spaces, if you reference the single handout that was provided at Monday night’s BOE meeting showing the new parking and car/bus drop off arrangement, you will see down in the lower right hand corner that the total proposed number of parking spaces is 218. Regarding programs such as LEARN and Creative Playschool, there is no decision that has been made as to where they will be located. As I’ve stated, those are discussions and decisions that need to be made collectively in the future, and could change pending any interest from LEARN or other educational organizations in obtaining space at NCS. Additionally, we don’t know what our future enrollment will look like. At this time, we are using this year’s K-4 population numbers (463 students total – combined NCS and LBH). The other programs may or may not be present at LBH in the future, but renovating our largest structure continues to provide us with the best options to make very important decisions that are in the best interest of our students and the future of our schools, programs, and partnerships with organizations such as LEARN.
Question: What is the rationale behind moving children to LBH before construction is complete versus leaving them at NCS until construction is complete? The second question concerns play spaces on the LBH rendering. Since Integrated Pre-K requires a separate play space, is one of the two on the rendering for Integrated? Can you also tell us the square footage of the two play spaces?
Answer: Regarding the rationale behind moving children to LBH before construction….first and foremost this is one of the ideas that will be discussed and vetted. As I stated this past Monday evening, no decision has been made on this. It warrants further discussion. It is an option that can be done due to the current available space at LBH (101,819 sq ft). It has to be weighed against the other options of using portables, or attempting to split LBH children between Flanders and NCS for two years while LBH is completely empty and undergoes renovations. By doing this last option, you still would require portables at either Flanders or NCS to house all children. Remember that we need 160,000 sq. ft of space for a combined 813 students (today’s numbers) and the current Flanders and NCS structures combined only have a total of 117,570 sq. ft of space. That leaves us with a need for an additional 42,000 sq. ft of needed student space if LBH is emptied for two years during construction. Regarding the pre-k play space there is a designated area in the rendering you received Monday night for children to use, which would also be in the area that K students would be located. I don’t currently have the sq. ft. number, but the existing play area that is present in that location does not change in sq. ft. As for other play spaces, with the information I have at this time there is no change other than the idea of a 44 car overflow parking area taking up some grass space. That could become a paved area which could be plowed and used during the winter (and other warmer months as well) for children to play outside. Therefore, having that new space would actually add play space to the existing footprint during the winter months because it could be chained off as a play area and only used for school events when necessary (obviously no play would be allowed when used as a parking area). It also could be eliminated from the proposal as the senior center parking and the church across the street can be used as overflow.
Question: You have mentioned your experience in Montville. Was that a folding of an existing school into a school under construction? Or was it renovating a school with the original students in it? As I am sure you are aware, many parents move to East Lyme in spite of high taxes to attend our schools. Montville may not be a perfect analogy.
Answer: Regarding Dr. Charles E. Murphy School in Montville where I was a principal for 6 years, it was not a folding of an existing school into that school. It was a school of 500+ students that went through a complete building renovation as proposed with LBH.
Question: What exactly will be presented to the BOS and BOE? I would think that they would like to see a school closed ASAP, so have you actually already decided portables will be used, or is there still a chance NCS will remain opened during construction? When I asked the architect about portables versus keeping NCS open he said that he had been at most of the steering committee meetings and was under the impression that Mr. Nickerson wanted NCS closed ASAP.
Answer: No decision has been made yet as to whether NCS would be closed beginning in 2017-2018. As I mentioned last night, discussions on the construction process will be the next step and would be a collaborative effort to identify the best option out of the many scenarios that we have available to us.
Question: How to you plan to get this through referendum. There will not be support from people in Niantic who do not have children because they will not want to see NCS turned back to the town for whatever the town wants to do with it. You will not get support from Flanders parents who will not be guaranteed any changes to their school that they wouldn't get without the referendum.
Answer: I disagree. I have received multiple emails from community members who do not have children in the schools supporting the newly proposed plan. Our entire East Lyme and Niantic community needs to fully understand what could transpire if this does not pass at referendum (NCS would eventually be closed and students would move into LBH with no renovations occurring in the near future). All parents across our district also need to understand that we are in desperate need of renovations, and with the newly adopted project plan we have the best shot at this passing at referendum.
Question: What is the justification for keeping a school open that will need to be knocked down and rebuilt entirely (Flanders) over one that could be much less expensively remodeled and expanded? By keeping NCS on ELPS could retain a school at a lower cost and gain more field space when Flanders is knocked down.
A: Answer: The Design Steering Committee and previous Vision Committee have thoroughly vetted all scenarios, taking into account State reimbursement and needs of the district. I would suggest you take a look at our website, as all minutes from past meetings on the elementary projects are present. Reading this information might help provide a clearer picture of the decisions that committee members have made.
Question: Can you please tell me why you feel we need to move the NCS children to Lillie B Haynes in 2017 while renovations are on going and a plan hasn't even been put in place or voted upon? I don't understand why you would not consider leaving the school open and operational until the plans and renovations are complete. How can you make a decision based on what might occur?
Answer: As I stated last night the next step is to engage in conversations around what will be the best scenario for the renovation process. No decision has been made yet, as we have many options that need to be considered. LBH is large enough to accommodate all of NCS. Closing NCS at the start of the 17-18 school year remains one of the many options that will be discussed through this process.
Question: What is the reason for the apparent and sudden accelerated pace of your planning? It took six years to arrive at this point, but now there seems to be a rush with a whole new approach. Will you present evidence to the town of your due diligence?
Answer: The planning, discussion, and vetting for the different school project scenarios is work that has occurred over the last few years. The recent board adopted plan is based on the fact that the cost to do two schools at once is not financially feasible and the town has no plans for the use of Lillie B. Haynes. The collaborative work that now needs to occur is how we go about renovating Lillie B Haynes (phased approach, use of portables, vacate Lillie B Haynes splitting kids between Flanders and NCS with portables).
Question: Who has ultimate responsibility for deciding how to dispose of school properties – the BOE or the BOF? This is unclear.
Answer: All school buildings are the property of the town. Therefore, they have the ultimate responsibility for deciding how to dispose of a property.
Question: How many additional classrooms will need to be constructed at Lillie B. Haynes to support our students at their current class sizes?
Answer: None. Lillie B. Haynes is double the size of Niantic Center School, and we have many open classrooms at NCS currently. Additionally, we have many open rooms at Lillie B. Haynes and can easily accommodate all of NCS without adding any additional classrooms.
Do you plan to house children at LBH in portable classrooms during construction? If portables are used, instead of NCS remaining open during construction, what provisions will be made for these children to travel between them in inclement weather multiple times a day? What security measures will be in place?
Answer: If we only have LBH students in that building when renovations take place we would not need portables and can phase the construction process. We can also combine NCS and LBH in the LBH structure and still do a phased approach. That is one scenario. Regarding the use of portables, students would need to travel outside to access the school during lunch, specials, etc. It would be similar to when they go outside for recess traveling in and out of buildings. Inclement weather can and would be an issue we would have to contend with. We would implement the same security measures that we use when students are outside of the building for any reason (i.e. recess).
Question: Given the increase in enrollment at Lillie B. Haynes, what impact does this have on support services such as art, technology, PE, and cafeteria? How will those classrooms, the gymnasium, and cafeteria handle twice the number of students?
Answer: We would not be adding twice the number of students to LBH, as their current population is sitting at 290 and NCS is 170. Regarding support services we would adjust schedules and staffing as necessary and adjust lunch waves. Class sizes would remain the same, and there would be in increase in grade level sections. The Lillie B Haynes structure can easily accommodate the combined number of students between schools.
Question: What were the driving points with the new plan?
Answer: Driving points with the new plan consisted of the following:
The cost of doing two schools at once (over 80 million before state reimbursement) was substantially impactful to tax payers and would double the town debt
The town no longer has a vision or use for the Lillie B. Haynes structure
The Niantic Center property provides the most options if returned to the town
There remains a need for two schools that represent a combined 160K Sq. Ft of space
Renovating our largest structure (LBH) provides a new school building for the most elementary students first (combined NCS and LBH population)
We maintain a ‘campus setting’ with LBH in walking distance to the Middle School. This provides increased opportunities for sharing student activities, sharing staffing between buildings, and in the case of an emergency either school can be evacuated and students can be housed in the neighboring building.
Question: Who were the parties that developed the new plan?
Answer: Let me be clear that there was never an ‘Ad Hoc’ committee that was formed. I brought a recommendation back to the Design Steering Committee who reviewed the changed plan. My recommendation was based on the Board of Education’s directive to investigate a cheaper option for our school projects, as doing two schools at once (NCS and Flanders) was too much money. At various times I informally met and talked with different individuals including Dr. Tim Hagen, Bill Derry, Dr. Jack Reynolds, Wayne Frazier, Dr. John Whritner, Mark Nickerson, Camille Alberti, Lisa Picarazzi, Kevin Seery, John Rhodes, Holly Cheeseman, and Anna Johnson. This was done to better understand how we were able to pass the new Middle School years ago, and also understand what our town and tax payers could feasibly afford. Upon informally gathering information, ideas, and thoughts I brought forward a cheaper alternative that immediately meets the needs of the most elementary students and is fiscally responsible. Additionally, I felt that this revised plan was something that has a solid chance of passing at referendum. We must keep in mind that the Middle School building (which was much cheaper than the two-school option we previously had) passed by only a few votes and the economy was in a much better place back then. Additionally, due to the fact that the town now has no plans or use for the Lillie B. Haynes structure, we have reverted back to what was the first original plan created by the Facilities Vision Task Forch to close Niantic Center School.
Question: How will this new plan actually roll out?
Answer: The plan will roll out with it being presented to the Board of Selectmen (May). We will initiate community and parent input into the construction process. Many parents have voiced concern with portable classrooms. That is one option, and we have the other options of renovating LBH via a phased approach with only LBH students present or with a combined LBH and NCS student base. We will collaboratively look at these options, take in continued feedback, and make a decision that is in the best interest of all children.
Question: What environmental studies have been done on hazardous materials at LBH?
We would like to see a printed copy of that report and how those hazardous materials are going to be mitigated. If there is friable asbestos we want to know the plans for containing it and the plans to ensure the students in the building won’t be exposed.
Answer: There have been no environmental studies associated with a renovation project that have been done on hazardous materials at LBH as of yet. That would all take place prior to and during construction. Please remember that friable asbestos can only be abated when no students are present.
Question: How do you plan to properly vet all construction workers and delivery persons? Will they all undergo background checks and fingerprinting?
Answer: School security remains a top priority. When a phased approach to construction is done, the area under renovation is sealed off so there is no access to the other parts of the building. The school remains secure and a locked facility at all times. The only individuals allowed in the building would be the construction manager if/when he/she was coming in for a meeting. That individual would follow the normal protocol of signing in and showing ID as necessary. Additionally, any delivery person entering the building would also need to follow current protocols that are in place.
Question: Can you provide the analysis of current enrollment versus projected enrollment and whether it accounts for all the new subdivisions and their placement within the current districts?
Answer: Regarding the analysis of enrollment, if you contact my assistant she can provide you with a sheet showing our current enrollment across the district as well as the NESDEC report we have that shows future projections. You cannot necessarily factor in new subdivisions because there is no way to tell if young families that have school-aged children are moving in or older individuals with no children. It would purely be an assumption.
Question: The architect mentioned that LBH is high in square footage. Was the old plan reimbursed at a higher percentage?
Answer: Any and all plans we have looked at were at the 43%. I don't have an answer specific to the square footage, but I do know that the two school option was looking at enrollments of 400 students.
Question: Regarding your question earlier this week about the collaborative meeting minutes that you referenced:
Answer: There are no minutes as the informal discussions with various constituents across our district and the town were just that...informal. There were no agendas, there was no decision making or action, it was informational only for me to do as the Board of Education had directed me to do. That was to investigate a cheaper option for our school projects as doing two schools at once was too much money. Upon informally gathering information, ideas, and thoughts, along with using the previous six years of work and studying of various school configurations, I brought forward a cheaper alternative to the Design Steering Committee that immediately meets the needs of the most elementary students first and is fiscally responsible.
Question: Can you provide the analysis of current enrollment versus projected enrollment and whether it accounts for all the new subdivisions and their placement within the current districts?
Answer: Regarding the analysis of enrollment if you contact my assistant she can provide you with a sheet showing our current enrollment across the district as well as the NESDEC report we have that shows future projections. You cannot necessarily factor in new subdivisions because there is no way to tell if young families that have school-aged children are moving in or older individuals with no children. It would purely be an assumption.
Question: The architect mentioned that LBH is high in square footage, was the old plan reimbursed at a higher percentage?
Answer: Any and all plans we have looked at were at the 43%. I don't have an answer specific to the square footage, but I do know that the two school option was looking at enrollments of 400 students.
Question: Do you have an open space comparison between FL and LBH (prior and post renovation)?
Answer: Open space comparison meaning playground area? Interior of the building? Which are you referring too?
Question: Are we maxed out on magnet school enrollment, if not do you anticipate more families will enter the lotteries if they are unhappy with the new plan?
Answer: Regarding Magnet Schools we are not maxed out. No - regarding more families entering the lotteries. I think it is the complete opposite, and if we don't renovate our schools parents may look elsewhere.
Question: There are rumors of a shift in principals due to Dr. Miko's impending retirement, if true this information should be released to parents asap in the interest of transparency.
Answer: I will release any and all information regarding David Miko's replacement at the appropriate time.
Question: This is the most important one- the CIP includes 34 million for the schools project, the architect estimated LBH at 34-35 million - where is the 1.5 million for FL coming from?
Answer: CIP would most likely need to be adjusted. Thanks for sharing this as I will look into it.
Question: With only 1 gymnasium how will all classes get PE? - Our district is already very low in minutes per week as compared to state BOE recommendation.
Answer: As mentioned during the tour of LBH we will need to look at the entire school schedule and adjust as necessary to ensure we maximize student time within PE, Art, Music, etc.
Question: If enrollment were to continue to decline and FL only has a need for say 250 students in 5-7 years what will the BOE do? - I imagine we cannot have a tiny school and an enormous one.
Answer: The BOE would need to assess any enrollment changes and make decisions years down the road to work at maintaining as close a balance in populations as possible.
Question: You reverted back to the original school plan which is now the revised school plan. Who decided on this original plan and when? Were the other scenarios which were vetted through the community evaluated and ranked in order to select the next best option?
Answer: The Facilities Vision Task Force and Design Steering Committee have been the groups that have made final decisions on the school plans. The Design Steering Committee forwards final plan recommendations to the Board of Education. All plans and variations have been discussed over the years. If you look at the ELPS ‘Fact Sheet’ on our website you can see some of the key dates where decisions were made, ranked, and moved forward.
Question: You indicate that Plan A to renovate Niantic Center School (NCS) and rebuild Flanders was found to be too expensive and that every possible scenario was vetted. When and with whom were every possible scenario vetted? I cannot find any information on that process. Was a scenario that involves phasing construction at NCS and Flanders considered? This scenario will be less expensive and may be completed with minimal tax increase (depending on reductions in the debt burden over the next several years). Wouldn’t this scenario meet with less resistance and also maintain a high standard of education in town?
Answer: The Facilities Vision Task Force and Design Steering Committee vetted all different scenarios and possibilities as well as impacts on state funding for the projects. You can go to our district website and click on the link for the elementary school projects. All meetings, discussions, and actions are there from the years of discussions.The concept of Flanders and NCS is not what the board has chosen to move forward with. The reasons for this decision are noted in my PowerPoints and the Board of Education meeting minutes. There are multiple reasons noted for moving forward with LBH rather than NCS.
Question: You state that the town no longer has a use for LBH. This seems contrary to our town needs. As the town population continues to grow, town government will grow as well. With this in mind and given the fact that the town needs new offices, as well as a new police department, why doesn’t the political will exist to repurpose LBH? LBH is an ideal location for community services. In addition to preschool, LEARN, and coastal connections, other town services may also be considered for location at LBH. Such services include another gymnasium for parks and recreation programs, expansion of the senior center and/or library. Wouldn’t offering an option that many town residents will benefit from increase the chance of a positive outcome at referendum?
Answer: The town has indicated that there is no plan for use of LBH. At our Community Forum back on November 18th, 2015, this was a major concern voiced by many, as the town could not articulate a future use for LBH. Tax payers want a plan and options for a school building’s potential return to the town. NCS provides multiple options. I can’t speak for the town on why there is no political will to repurpose LBH. I do know it would cost a substantial amount of money to turn LBH into town offices, etc. and it has been stated that there is no need to move the current town hall from its existing location.
Question: You state that the revised school plan has a good chance of being approved at referendum based on the middle school referendum. Have you considered the fact that there were more children enrolled in the public school system at that time, and the older population that lacks school-aged children has increased? The demographics have changed and what impact will this have on the referendum?
Answer: Good question, and yes, I’m well aware of what you have stated and that is why I researched the previous project (middle school) cost and process. The change in demographics (older population that now exists) is one of the precise reasons why we are going with a cheaper alternative. We have a better shot at passing the referendum with the Board of Ed. adopted plan that is in place.
Question: Since the town will be embarking on a long term capital improvement plan, shouldn’t renovations to the schools be included in order to address other town needs? Once the NCS property is sold and redeveloped, that will reduce the availability of space for the town to consider when developing its long term capital improvements plan.
Answer: There is currently 34 million projected for the elementary school projects in the Capital Improvement Plan for the year 2019-2020. This is in preparation for the proposed project. That number will be adjusted as necessary next year when C.I.P. is reviewed again. It is not my intent to have to sell or redevelop NCS. I would like to see it repurposed by an outside organization such as LEARN or another educational group, which might also allow for our Coastal Connections Program to move into the building.
Question: How do you plan to support the unique programs that NCS has developed which enrich the lives of the community in addition to the students? These programs include reading at Crescent Point, celebrating veteran’s day at the memorial, ACES at the beach, and the district-wide stormwater classroom for third graders.
Answer: Once LBH and NCS combine it will be the job of the principal (Mrs. DeLoreto) and her staff to determine which programs will implemented. I’m confident that a combination of both will come forth. Hence, my rationale for moving Mrs. DeLoreto to LBH so she understands both schools, staff, and programs and can bring forth the best from both schools in the years to come.
Question: Has anyone ever considered the impact of the programs identified in Q6 on the student’s test scores and overall state ranking of NCS (9th ranked elementary school)?
Answer: All three of our elementary schools are schools of distinction and run outstanding programs that directly correlate with student performance and engagement. As stated above, Mrs. DeLoreto and her staff will determine the best combination of programs that continue to meet the needs of all children providing unique experiences in all facets.
Question: Has anyone considered the relative value added by the programs identified in Q6 to the town’s investment in education? For instance, these programs which get students out and active, and are part of the curriculum don’t require an additional expense for transportation. Wouldn’t this type of in-kind service be seen as a co-match since it increases the value of education with no increased cost to the town?
Answer: We as a district consider the value of all programs (those that are part of the curriculum and the many that are not), and our principals and staff put forth activities that provide varied experiences for all children. I believe our town sees that and understands the inherent value given the success of our school district.
Question: Will the BOS have a similarly short time to review, hear deliberations, and vote on the plan as the BOE did? How much time will the BOS have between hearing public comment and voting on the plan?
Answer: We are still working on the timeline for presentation to the BOS and BOF. Also a Community Forum will need to take place, which will be planned and a date will be articulated in the near future.
Question: If there are no plans for the NCS property, why does the town take every opportunity to close the school (examples: through the budget process for the last 5 years, deals made without public input, and a threat to close NCS even if the referendum does not pass)? Why is closing NCS worth creating a plan that is not the best option for educating our young learners and one that will cost the taxpayers more in the long term? In the past, the town estimated that closing NCS would save about $550,000 per year. That is only 1.2% of the total education budget and does not account for those costs that would transition with the students.
Answer: I can’t speak for the town and threats to close NCS over the last 5 years. What I can tell you is there is a current surplus of 25 available classrooms across three elementary schools. We have a need for 160,000 square feet of space within two schools. We currently have three schools and over 200,000 square feet of space. It is not fiscally responsible as a district to continue to maintain so much extra square footage that is not needed. Additionally, the estimated dollar figure in closing NCS is approximately $822,000.
Question: You state that this decision to close NCS and renovate Lillie B. Haynes was made based on “informal” meetings with a number of elected officials. Since there are regulations that prohibit town government from interfering with education, how can the public be assured that the town government did not persuade the decision to move forward with a less popular revised school plan?
Answer: The Board of Education directed me to identify a cheaper project alternative as doing two schools at once (NCS and FL) was too expensive. As the Superintendent of Schools I gathered relevant information from multiple sources, used all of the work and vetting of school scenarios that the Vision Task Force and Design Steering Committee previously put together, and made a logical recommendation that makes sense for the reasons I put forth in my PowerPoints and discussions with the Board of Education. At no time did town government persuade a decision. It’s my job and that of the Board of Education’s to move a plan forward that is in the best interest of our school district. That is why the plan going forward is a plan that our board voted on and approved.
Question: The revised school plan was expedited through the BOE, why is it taking so long now to schedule the community forums?
Answer: As stated above, we are still working on timelines and a referendum date.
Question: The renovated LBH plan included on the website does not seem to account for an increase in cafeteria size? With additional students at LBH, how will they cycle through the cafeteria for lunch at lunch time? The students should not start lunch so early or so late, that they are hungry during learning time.
Answer: The cafeteria at LBH is the largest of the three schools. The building was a former Middle School that once provided lunch for over 800 students. A developed cycle of lunch waves will be created in the future to accommodate the combined NCS and LBH student population.
Question: There does not appear to be open space around the renovated LBH plan included on the website. Both NCS and Flanders have open fields for the students to run, and play soccer and football. Currently, NCS third and fourth graders are completing a marathon over the course of several weeks by running laps within the playground space. Having open space also allows for outdoor PE should the teacher choose. How will LBH accommodate for these activities?
Answer: There are two different field areas for play at LBH, and additional playground space. The proposed plan provides ample play space for children, and will actually provide additional space going from an existing 23,600 sq ft to 27,267 sq. ft. That’s an increase of 3,667 sq ft of outdoor play area for students.
Question: If LBH is currently too large per square foot of students and the town will receive less state reimbursement because of this, will consideration be given to demolishing a portion of the building to allow for increase outdoor play space?
Answer: We will be receiving the maximum 43% state reimbursement for LBH through this project, and renovating the largest amount of elementary school building space (101,000 sq ft). There is no plan to demolish any portion of the building. Classrooms constructed within the structure through renovation are slated to be larger than they currently are, providing more ample space for teachers, students, and programs.
Question: Why was the presentation different last night compared to the info that you had given to the BOE on Monday 23rd 2016 at the BOE meeting? You told the public at the meeting that you waited to give the info to the public until after the BOE had it in hand. I am not sure as to why it was changed.
Answer: The exact PowerPoint/packet I provided to the BOE on the 23rd was also previously given to the BOF/BOS (we sent them down from our office). I modified the PowerPoint to fit what I wanted to present last night. I will do the same (modify as necessary) for the Community Forum that will be set soon.
Question: Why was the $22 million dollar figure used for the cost of repairing the Elementarychools (Kaestle and Boos report from 2011) when the public addressed this issue with the Board and yourself this past Monday at the BOE meeting? I also sent you and the Board Members a email with the chart and a link of the study? The proper figure for all three schools using priorities 1 - 5 (1- urgent, 2- high, 3- moderate, 4- low and 5- long term) was $14,251,000.00. You had time to fix this incorrect info.
Answer: We were in receipt of your email (myself and BOE) regarding the 22 million dollar figure. Frankly, the more feedback I receive (and thank you for what you provided) regarding that slide it does not do any of us justice. The numbers are from 2011, and being that it is 5 years later the numbers and building issues have grown, so the slide is misleading which I think you would agree with.
Question: Why was it referenced in your slides last night that this is in the best interest of the students? While you also had a hand out in green paper (your fact sheet) that say's the BOE said that this is not in the best interest of the students. This is conflicting info for all! So which is it?
Answer: As the Superintendent of Schools and the individual who developed the PowerPoint, I believe that the plan adopted by the BOE is in the best interest of students, our district, and our future school budgets as we will be facing significant state cuts in the years ahead.
Question: Why wasn't NCS broken out into its own plan to present to the boards (which I would like to remind you that the property was deemed to be the safest of all three schools by our Police Department, and also was the best to be fiscally responsible coming in at roughly $26 million)? This project might be able to be done without the reimbursement of the State and if it was done it would cost the tax payers $10 million less. Curious as to what the rationale is on this?
Answer: The BOE adopted the plan to Renovate as New LBH, and refurbish FL. That's the plan that was presented to the joint boards last night.
Question: The architect confirmed last night that all three schools separately could be sent in with applications of there own to the State for reimbursement. I urge you to send in all three as this will leave options on the table if needed. What are your intentions with the filing of these projects?
Answer: You misinterpreted what he said. He stated that we can only file one plan with the state.
Question: Can you answer a few questions about Plan B? If the NCS students join LBH without the renovation, how many additional students will LBH and FL be able to absorb while maintaining class sizes? Does the plan allow for growth of Integrated Pre-K? How many students can be enrolled at any one school before you need to add an assistant principal to help with federally mandated teacher evaluations?
Answer: Obviously future discussions would need to take place regarding your questions before anything was decided upon, but Flanders School is currently at capacity. LBH would potentially absorb all of NCS, but again that’s a question for next year and if the referendum does not pass. As stated before, maintaining current class sizes is a priority of mine and that of the BOE. Integrated Pre-K would need to be discussed in the future, as well as any need for an assistant principal. There is no set student number for when an assistant might be needed. We would factor in a number of different components such as teacher evaluation requirements, special education needs and programs, pre-school, and other programs that might be present within the building. The BOE is aware of a possible need for this as am I.
Question: If enrollment dips to 770, how will the FL project be paid for when we will exceed the 129 square foot/student formula with just the mega LBH? Is it in consideration that the students from FL will be folded into the mega school?Answer: I would never support one large elementary school. As discussed in the past the Design Steering Committee and Vision Committee eliminated one large school as an option. This is not something that the community is interested in. Additionally, you cannot fit one large school for all students on the LBH site. Determination on how Flanders will be paid for will be discussed when we begin plans for that structure.
Question: I would like a copy of the district's long-term school building program.Answer: Not sure what you are referring to here? We do not have a long-term school building program. Is there a different document you are thinking of?
Question: Won't a 550 student school (including Pre-K) need an assistant principal?Answer: The correct number of total students K- 4 and Pre-K using current enrollment is 517. Not sure where 550 is coming from. There has been no discussion about having an A. Principal. That conversation is something that would need to take place in the future if we feel it is warranted.
Question:Will class sizes be the same as they currently are? Or will they only be in line with your recently approved class size guidelines?Answer: As previously discussed, there is no plan to increase class sizes at any grade level. The board is adamant about working hard to keep them low, and I support that as long as it is fiscally possible. The class size guidelines will continue to be used to maintain an acceptable range.
Question: How many people can the auditorium at LBH hold? How will school concerts be affected?Answer: I don’t have the exact capacity of the gym (where the stage is), but keep in mind that school used to be a MS with hundreds of students and the gym size never changed and will not change with the proposed plans. That school has the largest gym of any of the elementary schools, and can easily accommodate what is planned for. If you would like to have the exact capacity feel free to give Dr. Miko a call in the LBH office and they can provide it for you.
Question: Why has there been no public statement concerning the false information provided by Mark Nickerson that the LBH property could not be repurposed? Why is it in the power points that NCS is the best fit to give back to the town when Mark Nickerson insists he doesn’t care either way?Answer: That is not false information, as there are varying opinions on the meeting minutes and documents from 1955 regarding the use of that land and space. NCS is the best fit to give back to the town, as it was deemed that building provides the most options for future use. Additionally, I have stated previously that having a campus setting provides additional safety for our students as LBH children or MS children can (in close walking distance) utilize the other building if an evacuation occurs.
Have LEARN and Creative playschool been offered other placement in our schools? Have they accepted alternate placement? How will it financially impact the district if they choose not to stay in district? Why are you considering leasing classrooms to Perkins in NCS if you plan to shutter it? Do you think it is in the “best educational interests” of blind students to be offered classrooms in a school you plan to close in one year?Answer: At this time we are focused on what is in the best interest of our EL students. We will not make decisions about placements for outside organizations until after we have finalized what’s best for our own children. There is no financial impact on our district with Creative, and LEARN provides a yearly tuition of 61K which goes directly to the town. Keep in mind that we are working to expand partnerships with LEARN at our current MS and possible use of the NCS structure in the future. It is not my hope to simply close down NCS, but to use if for other educational purposes. I’m not opposed to partnering with LEARN or other educational organizations such as Perkins. We want to explore all options. Perkins is not the ‘Perkins for the Blind’ that you are thinking of. This a program for special needs children which is very similar to what LEARN currently runs at LBH. Any organization or school program would be well aware of their options with the building and we would not plan on closing it if they were leasing it. As I’ve said the hope is to leave NCS as an educational building.
Question: Do you have proof of a requested retraction submitted to both The Day and the Lyme Times for the recent article that presented the old elementary plan?Answer: I don’t know what you are referring to here. What requested retraction and who made the request?
Question: Who will be on the committee needed to oversee the new school construction?
Answer: This is something that will be determined in the future (next year) and to my knowledge it would be a town/district developed Building Committee that would be in place to monitor the project. Question: Why do you think you will save on a librarian when closing NCS? Can a single librarian serve 500 students at the current level of education? A custodian? Won't LBH need additional help when adding 170 students and running more lunch waves? Cutting two teachers? From which grades? Water? NCS children will use just as much water when at LBH. Chartwells? Planning to still feed the 170 students? Library books? Won't the LBH library expand to allow the same amount of choice the students have now? Communications? Will we be less informed than we are now? Utilities? If you sublet NCS you will still be paying those.
Answer: The cost estimates for savings in closing NCS are just that…estimates. We cannot at this time exactly predict each of the items you listed above. With that being said, you base custodial staff on square footage of a structure, not on student numbers. A single librarian can serve 500 students. There might be a need for a support staff to work with that individual. We have factored in additional help in the cafeteria, it’s too early to tell exactly which grades two teachers would be cut at….that was ascertained from the class size projections, some library books would probably go from NCS to LBH, communication would remain the same, and as for utilities and subletting, it would be worked into a lease agreement on who would be responsible for paying them (most likely the organization leasing the structure).
Question: Have you looked at the increased costs? Transportation? You will be doubling and tripling bus routes. LEARN and Creative rent?
Answer: We will not be doubling or tripling bus routes, as the NCS buses would be incorporated into LBH and all routes would be reconfigured. We currently pay for buses for both schools now.
Question: How many classes per grade will be at LBH and what is the projected square footage of each classroom?
Answer: This has not been finalized yet. I hope to have numbers and final square footage of classrooms within the next few weeks.
Question: I am sure you have a sense of how strongly I feel that young children need time and space to run about and have free, imaginative play. I do wonder if the larger amounts of continuous open space at Flanders and NCS have a correlation to the higher test scores at those schools. I think it is well worth the BOE touring all three schools during recess with the architect to see similarities and differences. Perhaps some input from our district PE teachers would be helpful as well. When my daughter was at Creative I picked her up during LBH recess on many days. It did not seem as lively and open as the two other schools, more like a middle school recess.
Answer: I believe there is ample space for play at LBH, and if we are able to incorporate an indoor play space as discussed at a previous board meeting we would be providing students with more physical activity than we currently do at any of the schools (especially in the winter months). Having the PE teachers involved is something that we would do, as well as all teachers as the plans come together.