MERIDEN — Once he learned Middlesex Community College had not renewed its lease in December, state Sen. Len Suzio suspected the plan was to close the downtown Meriden campus.
“It was obvious we had to do something quick,” said Suzio, a Meriden Republican.
Suzio met with Middlesex President Anna Wasescha, Board of Regents President Mark Ojakian, state Rep. Cathy Abercrombie, D-Meriden, Meriden School Superintendent Mark Benigni, and others to find possible solutions.
The group discussed the two newly renovated high schools and agreed Platt High School could be used by the college to keep a presence in Meriden. The Board of Education’s finance committee approved the arrangement last week and it goes before the full school board tonight.
According to Suzio, operating costs at the downtown campus were about $500,000 a year, and the Connecticut State College and University System was directed to shed 10 percent of its total budget. Two years ago, the campus faced closure but was saved after Meriden’s state legislative delegation and others intervened. But afterward, the Meriden Center on West Main Street cut night classes and enrollment declined.
Middlesex Dean Steven Minkler held a question-and-answer session for staff and students at the Meriden Center on Monday to talk about a possible move to Platt.
“We’re excited about it because it deepens our ties with the Meriden school system,” Minkler said.
If approved, the Platt location will allow the Meriden branch to resume offering evening classes four nights a week. The deal also allows Middlesex to use a new media center at Platt. By fall, Middlesex will also be able to offer science classes in the school’s new laboratories.
But there are some drawbacks. Some of the courses in the certified nurse’s aide program will move to Middletown because the clinical labs won’t be available.
There are also transportation issues for students who may have to travel to Middletown for classes and to Platt High School. The Meriden Center on West Main Street was convenient for students who live in the downtown area.
An agreement with the YMCA to provide day care for children of Middlesex students will also have to be reviewed. Students are now allowed to use YMCA day care services for a small fee for daytime classes. The college is talking to the YMCA about expanding the hours it operates its child care services at Platt High School to about 7 p.m.
Student Ruth Cruz, a general studies major, has a toddler, but relies on family members for child care because the YMCA program doesn’t fit her schedule. She hopes possible expanded YMCA child care hours at Platt could help her with night classes.
Mayor Kevin Scarpati said Friday he told community college administrators he hoped the college will eventually return downtown, possibly in a complex with other state and private colleges. City officials have been discussing possible uses of downtown buildings in the city’s transit-oriented district, and have identified the former hospital on Cook Avenue as a possible education center.
“It’s a solution that’s most viable and doesn’t involve a commitment to a building,” Suzio said of the plan to move to Platt. “I would love to do whatever we can do to see it potentially return to downtown. But what’s going to drive things right now is the economics and the state budget.”