Some of Cheshire’s aging school buildings might be in worse shape than originally thought.
That was the focus of the conversation of the School Modernization Committee last week, when the group met to discuss its latest round of school tours. The Committee has previously taken tours of Cheshire High School and Dodd Middle School, but those occurred prior to the onset of the pandemic.
This time around, the SMC toured four buildings — Norton, Humiston, Doolittle, and Darcey Schools.
“It was pretty eye-opening for me to see how long this (issue of updating the schools) has been neglected,” began SMC member Jeff Pangaro. “It was clear that what we are doing here is very needed and very important. It was also clear that the teachers themselves and the staff of the schools have gone above and beyond to make these environments as enjoyable as possible given the current status of the buildings.”
Bates agreed with Pangaro, adding that she believes Cheshire’s teachers “take a lot of pride in what they do” and that the group should honor and respect their wishes as best as possible when making decisions.
One of the schools Bates mentioned specifically was Darcey School, the Districts only pre-k and kindergarten facility. Darcey School is located on the west side of Cheshire.
In some recently-released proposals for the District, Darcey has been mentioned as one of the schools that could potentially be closed, yet after the tours Bates, for one, seemed to indicate that such plans might not be in the best interest of everyone.
“Darcey is a very special place, I think we all realize that,” Bates added. “It is very unique and hard to replicate, so that needs to be taken into consideration as well.”
The topic then shifted to Humiston, and the many challenges it represents, regarding not only the building itself, but the administration offices it holds. Humiston is the oldest school building in the District and houses an alternative high school.
“That area (in the school) is very challenging,” said Bates. “The areas are small, the gym doesn’t really have a place for them (the students) to do any type of gym activities, it's not ADA compliant at all and it's very dark. The bottom floor doesn’t really have much as far as sight-lines or windows so they’re not able to see outside.”
Pangaro agreed, stating his belief that Humiston poses some of the biggest challenges facing the Committee.
“The challenge is that we learned that it can’t really be attached to any other school in the system, from the advice from the people who are there every day,” he explained. “As we were looking at these various options one thought was that we could add it on to an elementary school or the high school, but it was clear that it would kind of defeat the purpose … of Humiston if we did that.”
“The fact that it (Humiston) is not ADA compliant is not good,” added SMC member Charles Neth. “… I couldn’t imagine going to school there with it being in such poor condition.”
After his comments about Humiston, Neth focused his attention on Norton Elementary School, and, in particular, a health concern made more immediate by COVID-19.
“I learned that, I think it is Norton, part of the school doesn’t have any hot water?” asked Neth, to the rest of the group.
“There’s been a problem with our hot water supply, and it’s never been addressed,” answered Vin Masciana, chief operations officer of the Cheshire School District.
“The principal did mention that they are making sure that the students are washing their hands for at least 30 seconds at a time, but it is cold water that they are washing their hands in, so that’s a big concern,” added Bates.
The Committee agreed that Doolittle Elementary was in the best shape out of the four they had visited, and Neth suggested that it is probably in the best shape out of all the schools in the District, except for Highland.
The next SMC meeting will be held on Dec. 8, at 7 p.m. in the Highland Elementary School cafeteria.