The School Modernization Committee has continued to meet over the last several weeks but, like most other local boards and commissions, has done so remotely.
On Wednesday, Oct. 5, Committee members finally had the chance to meet together in person since COVID-19 precautions required everything to move online. And while together at Highland School, the firm hired to help devise Cheshire’s infrastructure plan delivered some of its initial findings.
“Colliers believes most of Cheshire’s schools are viable candidates for renovation status based upon age, and no upgrades/renovations in many years,” said Chuck Warrington, a representative from Colliers International, the firm hired to advise the Committee on options to modernize the local school system.
Warrington presented the SMC members with a packet of information regarding State guidelines, project schedule, and the Humiston building, as well as a status report on what his company determined during its initial review of the School District’s need.
“The State guidelines for new projects shows the deliverables for all different scenarios, info that might need to be sent to the state, the options of potentially closing a school, redistricting, and analyzing the projections for each of the schools,” said Warrington.
A considerable amount of discussion was spent on Dodd Middle School, considered to be potentially the first domino to fall in any expansive renovation project. Warrington explained that, if Dodd wanted to incorporate grade 6 into the school — Dodd currently educates students in grades 7 and 8, one of the few state middle schools to not incorporate a grade 6 — it would “make room in the elementary schools and lead to a possible consolidation of other schools and an expansion of services.”
However, Warrington warned that the current Dodd facility is “not large enough for a grade 6–8 school (and) there is no room to expand on this site.”
As far as the entire plan to begin renovations is concerned, Warrington explained that the Cheshire School District must submit a checklist of what needs to be completed, hire a licensed architect, the building(s) must be the correct size for the projected eight-year enrollment, and the specific project must work within the District-wide master plan.
“The project must begin construction within two years of the grant commitment,” said Warrington. “If Cheshire is put on the priority list and the education bill is passed, there is a funding agreement with the State of Connecticut for reimbursement of the eligible rate for the district.
Vice Chairman Charles Neth brought up Humiston School and what, if anything, can be done with the existing Board of Education offices that remain in the building. Humiston is the oldest building in the school system and is home to the District’s alternative high school.
“Something needs to be done with Humiston,” he said. “We can move the school out of that building and find another place for the BOE offices?”
Chief Operations Officer Vincent Masicana cautioned Neth on his eagerness to do something with the building, warning that Humiston is a small part of a much larger picture.
“Humiston is part of the entire project,” he explained. “Everything must be considered. It is within the SMC to look at Humiston as part of the overall plan. The high school and BOE offices could go into another building; this issue is part of the equation and discussion.”
During the meeting, Warrington explained that Colliers’ enrollment study is expected to be completed by Oct. 21.
The next SMC meeting will be in the Highland Elementary School Cafeteria on Oct. 21 at 7 p.m.