WALLINGFORD — A group of attendees at a community workshop seemed split Thursday evening on whether it would be better to build new middle and high school buildings or renovate the existing ones.
The workshop was conducted by David Stein, architect at Silver Petrucelli, and two representatives from Milone & MacBroom, a consulting firm the Board of Education hired to do a study of the town’s four middle and high schools and make recommendations.
Recommendations could include reconfiguration, reorganization and consolidation.
Old school buildings, declining enrollment and budget considerations prompted the study.
The middle and high school buildings are 44 to 61 years old, and “while utilization is currently around 70 percent to 80 percent, dedicated specialty space for programs is lacking and inhibiting program expansion” for culinary, nursing and robotics, according to a Milone & MacBroom analysis.
There were 5,951 students enrolled in the 2014-15 school year, according to a Milone & MacBroom enrollment analysis.
Currently, there are 5,631 students, and that number is projected to drop to 5,498 by 2027-28.
Rebecca Augur, Milone & MacBroom principal planner, said the consultants will take into consideration the ideas expressed Thursday, along with input from students, parents, teachers and school board members.
Several people expressed enthusiasm for building a new high school partially funded by the state.
A new high school, they said, would be state-of-the-art and 21st-century-ready, offer energy efficiency, long-term cost savings, better security integration and need no mold or asbestos remediation.
Some favored reconfiguring the grades among the schools, such as a 6/7, 8/9 and 10/11/12 configuration.
Others wanted to maintain the status quo and invest in upgrading the four schools.
It would be a burden to parents, some said, to go far across town for after-school activities.
More schools mean more opportunity for kids to participate in sports, clubs and student government, including leadership roles, some said.
Another idea was to split the schools by programming. Have one school for arts, another for college preparation, another as a therapeutic day school, and maintain or expand Lyman Hall High School’s vo-ag program.
Many wanted to maintain school culture, including Powder Puff.
The workshop at Town Hall drew about 20 people, including Lyman Hall High School Principal Joseph Corso, Town Councilor Jason Zandri, Wallingford YMCA Executive Director Sean Doherty, Town Planner Kacie Hand and Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr.
Dickinson is not convinced there’s an urgent need to renovate the existing schools.
“I’m anxious to hear what it is we’re trying to address,” he said. “We’re assuming that all kinds of renovations are needed but there’s no indication of why. ... There’s almost an assumption that signification change needs to be made to the schools.”