After school tours, committee discusses building needs

After school tours, committee discusses building needs

CHESHIRE — Some of the town’s school buildings might be in worse shape than originally thought.

That was the focus of the conversation at a School Modernization Committee meeting earlier this month when the group met to discuss its latest round of school tours. The committee toured Cheshire High School and Dodd Middle School prior to the pandemic. 

This time around, the panel toured Norton, Humiston, Doolittle, and Darcey schools.

“It was pretty eye-opening for me to see how long this (issue of updating the schools) has been neglected,” began SMC member Jeff Pangaro. “It was clear that what we are doing here is very needed and very important. It was also clear that the teachers themselves and the staff of the schools have gone above and beyond to make these environments as enjoyable as possible given the current status of the buildings.”

Committee Chair Jen Bates agreed with Pangaro, adding that she believes local teachers “take a lot of pride in what they do.”  

One of the schools Bates mentioned was Darcey School, the district’s only pre-k and kindergarten facility. Darcey School is located on the west side.

In some recently-released proposals for the school district, Darcey has been mentioned as one of the schools that could be closed.

“Darcey is a very special place, I think we all realize that,” Bates added. “It is very unique and hard to replicate, so that needs to be taken into consideration as well.”

The topic then shifted to Humiston, and the many challenges it represents, regarding not only the building itself, but the administrative offices it holds. Humiston is the oldest school building in the district and houses an alternative high school. 

“That area (in the school) is very challenging,” said Bates. “The areas are small, the gym doesn’t really have a place for them (the students) to do any type of gym activities, it's not ADA compliant at all and it's very dark. The botin tom floor doesn’t really have much as far as sight-lines or windows so they’re not able to see outside.”

“The fact that it (Humiston) is not ADA compliant is not good,” added committee member Charles Neth. “… I couldn’t imagine going to school there with it being in such poor condition.”

After his comments about Humiston, Neth focused his attention on Norton Elementary School, and, in particular, a health concern made more immediate by COVID-19.

“I learned that, I think it is Norton, part of the school doesn’t have any hot water?” asked Neth, to the rest of the group.

“There’s been a problem with our hot water supply, and it’s never been addressed,” answered Vin Masciana, chief operations officer of the Cheshire School District.

“The principal did mention that they are making sure that the students are washing their hands for at least 30 seconds at a time, but it is cold water that they are washing their hands in, so that’s a big concern,” added Bates.

The committee agreed that Doolittle Elementary was in the best shape out of the four they had visited, and Neth suggested that it is probably in the best shape out of all the schools in the district, except for Highland.

The next SMC meeting will be held on Dec. 8, at 7 p.m. the Highland Elementary School cafeteria.

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