SOUTHINGTON — Education planners are considering what they might do with shuttered elementary schools and the community impact of closing a downtown school.
The Board of Education is considering the future of Derynoski, Flanders and Kelley elementary schools. All three are in need of either replacement or major renovation and it’s likely that only two schools will be needed.
During a meeting of education leaders on Tuesday, board members talked about possibilities for Derynoski such as closing it and selling the land, building a new school on the property and selling the building or renovating it.
Other plans for redistricting presented by the town’s consultants, Colliers Project Leaders, included: renovating all three schools; renovating Derynoski, closing Flanders and building a new Kelley and closing Derynoski and building new Flanders and Kelley schools.
Plans range in estimated cost to the town from $57 million to more than $100 million.Downtown landmark
Derynoski was built in the 1950s as a high school and is located at 240 Main St. It’s the oldest of the three schools under consideration and as a result the one with the most unforeseeable renovation costs.
Members of the board’s school facilities committee discussed the feasibility of selling the site altogether or just selling the school and front portion. That might leave room on the 16.5-acre site to build a brand new school without demolishing the historic building.
Colleen Clark, a board member and committee chairwoman, invited the town’s economic development coordinator Lou Perillo to Tuesday’s meeting. She was looking for him to offer a perspective on what the sale of that property might do for the downtown.
“We’re trying to look at all the facets,” she said.
Perillo said there isn’t great demand for commercial or retail space. Most developers would be interested in building housing. If the project was affordable housing, a developer could put a large number of housing units on the space.
“The highest and best use for that site can significantly alter the characteristic of the town,” Perillo said.
He acknowledged the emotional attachment residents have to the downtown school and appreciated the building’s architecture. But he warned about the costs in both time and money of renovating old buildings that contain unknown problems and contaminants.
“When you get into renovation something of this size and age, you have to look long and hard at the numbers,” Perillo said.
Closing Flanders would also prompt the question of what to do with the land. If sold, it too could be turned into housing.
Zaya Oshana Jr., a board and committee member, said the introduction of large new housing developments was concerning.
Perillo said more families would end up increasing school costs and could negate any costs savings realized by redistricting.State reimbursement
The town is eligible for construction reimbursement of 55.36 percent for renovations and 45.36 percent for new construction. Building projects need to meet state approval, however. Colliers consultants said Tuesday that the state very well could reject an expensive renovation project and instead ask the town to build a new school.
Clark said school leaders needed to know whether there was room at Derynoski to put in a new school in addition to the existing one.
She preferred not to renovate schools while children were in them. School leaders took that approach renovating the two middle schools.
“It has its challenges,” Clark said.
The committee is far from a decision, members said, and much more information needs to be gathered. School leaders also want to get advice from state officials on what plans might qualify for reimbursement.