With one hand Southington is getting rid of an old and outdated school, while with the other hand the town is picking up property that could someday be used to expand a newly updated middle school. It’s all about letting go of the past and planning for the future.
Beecher Street School goes back more than a century, to a time when schools were not thought to need parking at all, and it’s in a very built-up area — while DePaolo Middle School was constructed during the age of the car, when the design ideal for schools was long and low, with plenty of room to grow. Even though the renovation and expansion of DePaolo is well underway, the acquisition of 7.6 acres from the adjacent Pleasant View Stables should guarantee that further needs for space can be accommodated.
While it’s sad to see the last parcel of an old, family-owned farm sold off, it appears that the business was no longer viable. The town had been in talks with the family, but no agreement could be reached before the designs for renovating the two middle schools became final.
Getting rid of Beecher Street was probably inevitable; once the Southington Board of Education found new digs, it was just a matter of time before the old HQ would go on the block. The town might have gotten a bit more for the place last year, but that proposal wasn’t acceptable to all town councilors, and neighbors objected to the size of the project. The winning plan means keeping the old building, with only 12 residential units instead of 30, and so it won approval on an 8-0 council vote.
But one question remains that probably won’t be answered anytime soon. Although the Pleasant View Stables property was bought “first and foremost to preserve open space,” as the town manager has said, he also suggested that the school system, and perhaps the town, have unspecified needs that might eventually trump open space as a use.
Even if the ultimate use of the land remains unclear, though, buying it seems like a prudent move on the town’s part.