Mary Morrisson Elementary School to close in July 2021

Groton — The Board of Education voted Monday to close Mary Morrisson Elementary School, effective July 1, 2021, adding another elementary school to the two already slated for closure under the Groton 2020 plan.

As part of Groton 2020, the town is constructing a new consolidated middle school adjacent to Robert E. Fitch High School, to be completed in June 2020, and plans to build two new elementary schools on the existing middle schools sites. The new elementary schools are scheduled to open in the fall of 2021.

With the board’s vote, Mary Morrisson will join S.B. Butler and Claude Chester elementary schools in closing in 2021, as the two new, larger elementary schools open. About 600 students need to be enrolled in each of the new elementary schools, and district officials determined that, based on enrollment projections, they could close another school in addition to the two previously planned for closure, and operate more efficiently, Superintendent Michael Graner has said.

Next year, school officials will determine the magnet themes for the two new intradistrict elementary schools that will be built on the sites of the existing middle schools and identify neighborhood catchment areas for the schools, which also will have open seats for students to apply for through a lottery, he said.

Graner said Tuesday that he anticipates the majority of Mary Morrisson students will attend, beginning in the fall of 2021, the new elementary school that will be built at the site of West Side STEM Magnet Middle School. That school will be near where the students live, though they also would have the opportunity to apply to attend any magnet school in the district, he said.

Graner said he plans to recommend to the board that Charles Barnum Elementary School become an intradistrict magnet school in 2021, which, if it meets board approval, would make all of the district's elementary schools magnet-themed.

The district currently has six elementary schools and will have five for the fall of 2021. Those five schools are the two new magnet-themed elementary schools, Charles Barnum, Northeast Academy Arts Magnet School and Catherine Kolnaski STEAM Magnet School.

No teachers will lose their jobs due to the closures, Graner said. The approximately 90 teachers that currently teach at Mary Morrisson, Claude Chester and S.B. Butler will be assigned to the new elementary schools for 2021, he said, with 45 going to one school and the other 45 going to the other school. In deciding placements, the district will survey the teachers to find out what their interests are.

He also said that, as there is a fair amount of turnover in administrative positions and retirements are anticipated within the next two years, no administrators will lose their jobs.

Graner said he previously sent a letter to parents whose children attend Mary Morrisson and met with faculty last month. He said the board's decision on Monday gives the school district a two-year planning window, which is extremely helpful in terms of proper planning and making a smooth transition for teachers, students and parents.

Graner has said he estimates the district would avoid spending hundreds of thousands of dollars by closing the school. School officials opted to close Mary Morrisson, built in 1964, rather than Charles Barnum Elementary School, another school built in the mid-1960s, because of the condition of Mary Morrisson, which has a playground that floods and a parking area that doesn't have a good traffic pattern, he said.

k.drelich@theday.com 

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