Plans for Cheshire’s aging school buildings might finally be coming into more focus.
The School Modernization Committee has completed the beginning stages of its information gathering process and has outlined a variety of options about how to move forward with updating Cheshire’s aging school buildings. At the Nov. 2 meeting, the SMC Options Subcommittee presented to the Council four scenarios about how to update and upgrade the facilities.
“These scenarios are still very early in the planning stage. We’re still analyzing them … these are not cast in stone by any means, so I don’t want anyone to think that they’re not changeable,” said Chuck Warrington, a representative of Colliers International, the firm hired by the SMC to help facilitate the project.
The first scenario presented by the Committee includes building a brand-new elementary school that would house pre-kindergarten and result in the closure of Darcey School. This would require the redistribution of students to either Doolittle or Chapman for kindergarten. The surrounding schools would remain kindergarten through sixth grade.
Chapman School would also be used as a “swing space” as renovations occur at other buildings, including at Cheshire High School and Dodd Middle School.
“This scenario resolves elementary school space needs without touching the middle school, “” added Warrington. “Humiston School is addressed in each of these scenarios, but it is not really considered the highest need out of all the schools.”
The second scenario involves construction of a brand-new middle school for grades 6 through 8, with construction happening ideally by 2029, and repurposing Dodd as an elementary school. Doing this would allow for elementary schools to redistrict for grades K-5, and for the potential closure of Chapman Elementary School. The remaining funds could then be used for either renovating the high school or working on other capital improvement projects, such as roof or window replacements.
The third scenario calls for the renovation of CHS and then a combination of scenario one or two, based on the needs of the elementary schools. This option also calls for capital improvements to be made at Dodd Middle School, with grades 7 and 8 remaining. While a specific price was not listed for any of the scenarios, Warrington mentioned that the third option in particular would come with “a large anticipated cost”.
The last scenario involves the construction of a brand-new high school. The old CHS building would then either be transformed into a middle school for grades 5-8 or be demolished. Dodd would also be repurposed as an elementary school, both Darcey and Chapman Schools would be closed, and the remaining elementary schools would be redistricted.
After the scenarios were presented, Council Chairman Rob Oris shared his views on the plans.
“Scenario one seems to be the least expensive option, but the second scenario is more along the lines of what the school system is looking for. If we go with a 6-8 middle school is there more consolidation amongst the other schools?” he asked Warrington.
“Things can move around to ensure things work from an operational standpoint,” Warrington responded. “Dodd is a 128,000-square-foot facility and the District wants to take advantage of that space.”
While no decision was made as to which scenario will be chosen, the SMC set a goal of deciding on a scenario by Jan. 20, 2021.