After all that was done two years ago to save the downtown Meriden campus of Middlesex Community College, it comes as a great disappointment to the city that the lease on the West Main Street building has not been renewed. Even after that narrow victory in 2015, credited in large part to the city’s legislative team at the time, night classes were dropped and enrollment declined. And now, instructed by Gov. Dannel Malloy to cut 10 percent of its budget, the Connecticut State College and University System is pulling out of that location.
There is also good news, however. The new plan calls for the college to use classrooms at Platt High School to keep a presence in Meriden, and the Meriden Board of Education unanimously approved that proposal Tuesday. Classes will begin this summer in what officials from the Middletown-based college and the city high school say is a mutually beneficial partnership. Ten classrooms and the media center on the second floor of the newly renovated freshman academy at Platt will be used by MxCC, and spaces in college classes will be reserved for Platt students.
“We’re excited about it because it deepens our ties with the Meriden school system,” said Middlesex Dean Steven Minkler.
Mayor Kevin Scarpati said he hopes the college will eventually return downtown, possibly as part of an education center at the former hospital on Cook Avenue. “I would love to do whatever we can do to see it potentially return to downtown,” said state Sen. Len Suzio, R-Meriden. “But what’s going to drive things right now is the economics and the state budget.”
At this point, a return downtown seems like a very remote possibility, and the move to Platt is a clear setback to the process of revitalizing the downtown district. While something valuable has definitely been lost, at the same time the move should make Platt a more vital and interesting institution of learning.
Meriden School Superintendent Mark Benigni said being able to offer community college courses for free at Platt will open up “a great opportunity for our students and staff.”
In view of the dire condition of the state’s finances — with billion-dollar-plus deficits on the horizon — the Platt plan is probably the best Meriden can expect.