Tensions and frustrations ran high during the most recent School Modernization Committee meeting, where members ultimately decided to push the deadline for presenting a proposal to the Cheshire Town Council from March 1 to June.
The decision came after multiple members expressed their concern over the pace that the committee is moving, and the lack of information they have received over the past few months.
“I am really starting to feel like we are going backwards now,” said member Kate O’Donnell, at the Feb. 17 virtual meeting. “I feel like all the work we did over the past few months was really for nothing.”
While the meeting agenda included a possible discussion on the Town acquiring a parcel of land on which to potentially build a new school building, it was brought to the Committee’s attention that an error had been made in calculating the appropriate enrollment numbers for each school in the District, and that the design firm of Milone and MacBroom would have to recalculate the proper enrollment numbers. The Committee had created their previous project scenarios based off of numbers for capacity, not enrollment.
“Capacity and enrollment are not a one-to-one ratio,” explained Chuck Warrington, a representative of Colliers International, the project manager hired by the SMC to help create the plans for modernizing the schools. Milone and MacBroom is the engineering firm hired by Colliers to collect the appropriate data needed to generate the plans.
“(When) Milone and MacBroom looks at the numbers, they are looking at it from an educational perspective,” Warrington continued. “They are trying to figure out how X amount of classrooms can hold Y amount of kids per classroom on average. Every district is completely different (as far as their target) for numbers of students per classroom. We never had Milone do these hard crunching of numbers that we’re asking them to do now.”
Matt Bowman, SMC member, expressed his concern over both Colliers and Milone and MacBroom’s errors, and how the Committee has made it this far without realizing the mistake.
“I am really frustrated with this,” Bowman began, “and I would really have liked to not be blind-sided by this information. I wish we were made aware of this ahead of time, and not minutes before the meeting. It doesn’t give us enough time to process the information you guys have spent days and months getting together”
Committee member Rich Gusenburg also expressed his frustration with the revelation and how much work now needs to be redone as a result.
“So our costs estimates then, the ones we had Jim Jaskot do, need to be redone?” Gusenburg asked Warrington.
“Yeah, we’ve already done that, but yes,” confirmed Warrington.
Bowman also suggested that the group take a step back and look at the information they have received over the past few months.
“I really feel like decisions are being made by the Chair and Vice Chair that are not being shared with the group,” Bowman said. “The rest of us are just left in the dark as to what information is known. They have all these projections for these financial plans that we did not talk about.”
Chair Jen Bates denied making any decisions without the consent of the group, and refuted Bowman’s claim that outside meetings were taking place.
“I really feel like the meeting last night set us back four months,” Bowman told The Herald, after the meeting. “But people are finally expressing their feelings as to what is going on. I can only hope we can move forward from here.”
The group set a new deadline date of June 1, to present its recommendations to the Town Council.