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Wallingford town councilors weigh in on school plans

Wallingford town councilors weigh in on school plans

reporter photo

WALLINGFORD — The school board is reviewing several multi-million dollar plans that would restructure the town's middle and high schools.

No matter what option the board chooses, the Town Council will be the body to appropriate funding.

Vincent Cervoni, Town Council chairman, said Thursday that he’s reviewed the six preliminary options presented to a school board subcommittee last month, thought not in great detail.

“I have to imagine that it would be a concern for us about that level of spending,” he said.

Estimated costs to the town after state reimbursement run from about $77.6 million to $117.2 million, depending on the scope of the option.

Consultants from Milone & MacBroom conducted a facilities study and made recommendations that include reconfiguration, reorganization and consolidation.

The school board operations committee is scheduled to meet Monday to discuss the options.

Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said earlier this week committee members may narrow the options at the meeting, although they don’t have to. 

Cervoni said that the last major projects of appreciable size was a multi-school roofing project. Questions at that time mostly focused on the necessity of the work, but Cervoin said restructuring four schools presents a broader range of issues.

“I think this is much more complex than repairing decaying roofs,” he said. The school board still has a lot of discussions and work to do before a proposal comes to the council, and Cervoni added that it’s too early in the process for him to favor a plan.

Town Councilor Jason Zandri said he attended the options presentation meeting last month.

“The board is making good progress,” he said. ”At the end of the day, I don’t have any issues following through with what the board recommends, but (the town council) will have its own questions.”

Zandri agreed with the school board’s decision to take the status quo option off the table, and said he understands concerns about shrinking enrollment. “I have to believe that what comes up as an eventual choice is going to take that into consideration,” he said.

Consolidating schools options have drawn criticism from some residents.

A Facebook group that allows parents opposed to building consolidation to connect and share information has drawn nearly 400 membersin two weeks.

“I’ve learned that this process has only just begun,” said Elisa Allardice, group administrator. “If it ends up that the board is seriously considering closing schools, then I’m sure many people will speak up."

One of the Facebook group’s moderators, Shannon Sorvillo, created an online petition that has gathered about 960 signatures from those opposed consolidation and in favor of options that renovate buildings instead.

The consultant’s six options are: 

1. Maintaining the status quo and addressing the capital needs of all schools with no changes to current programming. Estimated cost: $15.6 million for capital needs and $1.5 million in security upgrades.

2. Renovating the high schools as new, with potential design improvements, and addressing the middle schools’ capital needs. Estimated cost: $128 million, with the town paying $77.6 million after state reimbursement.

3. Renovating all schools to create pathway programming. Dag Middle School and Lyman Hall High School would offer science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, agricultural science, manufacturing, construction, business, and law themes. Moran Middle School and Sheehan High School would offer arts, audio/visual technology, communications, medical and human services themes. Estimated cost: $196.5 million, with the town paying $117.2 million. Cross-town transportation would cost an additional $525,000 to $900,000.

4. Creating townwide schools. Moran would house grades 5 and 6, Sheehan grades 7 and 8 and Lyman Hall grades 9-12. Dag would house central office staff, special education, and alternative and adult education. Estimated cost: $209.2 million, with the town paying $114.4 million.

5. Creating one middle school and two themed high schools. Dag would house offices like in Option 4 and Moran would remain a grade 6-8 middle school. Sheehan and Lyman Hall would be renovated and offer specific programming, like option 3. Estimated cost: $185.2 million, with the town paying $107 million.

6. Creating single townwide middle and high schools. Dag would have offices like in option 4, and Moran would be returned to the town. Sheehan would serve grades 6 through 8 and Lyman Hall would remain a high school. Estimated cost: $119.6 million, with the town paying $59.9 million.

Will Wallingford consolidate schools?