Norwich committee proposes school renovation, consolidation options

Norwich — A draft plan for renovating and consolidating city elementary schools, would keep and expand three current schools and look for land to build a fourth, new school.

The School Facilities Review Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to consider two renovation and expansion options for elementary schools for preschool through fifth grade, with a combined total capacity of about 3,000 students.

The “plan A” narrowed down Wednesday by the committee would keep and expand the Uncas, John Moriarty and John Stanton elementary schools and seek property to build a new school, preferably in the southern, Laurel Hill area of town. The plan would close the Veterans’ Memorial, Wequonnoc, Huntington and Mahan elementary schools.

Huntington School in Norwichtown would house central office staff and other functions, and the current central office building on the Norwichtown Green would be put up for sale. School Business Administrator Athena Nagel said that potentially could allow the school to consolidate central office staff now housed in the Bishop Early Learning Center and elsewhere.

The committee wrangled with a draft plan considered last month and agreed with member Ryan Telford’s assessment that keeping the Veterans’ Memorial School at the end of Crouch Avenue off Laurel Hill-Route 12 would not be viable. Telford argued that the school property has little space for expansion, and even if the city could add a second story, there would be no room for playgrounds, parking and bus traffic.

But if the city could not find a suitable space for a new school, the committee would recommend a “plan B” that would again renovate and expand the Uncas, Moriarty and Stanton schools, while keeping the Wequonnoc and Veterans’ Memorial schools and renovating them as smaller elementary schools.

In either option, Kelly Middle School, which was renovated and expanded recently, would remain the same, and the Teachers’ Memorial Middle School would be renovated and expanded.

The committee in August will finalize plans for other school buildings, such as an idea to place a special education program in the Bishop Early Learning Center, options for the Case Street Early Learning Center, and the Hickory Street School, which now houses a post-high school special education transitional school, and the Huntington School building.

The committee hopes to present its final recommendations at the Board of Education's September meeting.

c.bessette@theday.com

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