Board seeks new ideas for old school

LITCHFIELD – As plans move forward for a new elementary school, the fate of the Griffin Memorial School remains uncertain.

The School Board is seeking input on what to do with the decades-old school if a new school is built. Plans for a new school, which would go before voters in March, are still being fine-tuned.

The School Board will propose building a school to house pre-kindergarten and grades 1-5. The school would be near Litchfield Middle School and could cost about $20 million. The new school would have a capacity of 1,000 students and an enrollment of about 774.

Under such a scenario, the fifth grade would move out of LMS, making the portable classrooms there unnecessary, and GMS would be emptied of all its students.

School officials have contacted several community organizations, such as the historical society and local boards and departments, about potential uses for the school. A meeting will be held Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Campbell High School to solicit community input on Griffin’s future.

“The goal is community-wide input on what they’d like see Griffin used as,” School Superintendent Cathy Hamblett said.

There are several needs in the community, such as recreation space, that Griffin could help fill, School Board Chairman Cindy Couture said.

The district is hoping to move its school administrative unit’s offices into GMS. The administration is currently using several rooms at Campbell High School.

The board wants to see information on the financial costs of making the move, Couture said. The high school needs the rooms that the SAU is using, she said.

Some of the areas being used now will be needed for smaller classrooms for advanced studies classes, Hamblett said. “In two years, it will be critical to have that space,” she said.

The SAU staff also needs more room for storage and its daily needs, she said.

“There’s not enough room for housing the functions we provide in the district,” Hamblett said.

Even with the SAU offices, there would be room for other uses at Griffin, Couture said.

The original section of the school was built in 1930, Couture said.

Additional sections were added in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. When the school first opened, it housed grades 1-8.

A warrant article to build a $14.2 million school housing grades 1-4 near the middle school failed at Town Meeting this year. Under that scenario, fifth grade and the school administrative office would have been moved to GMS, which is home to grades 1-4 now.

One issue with the last school proposal was the cloudy fate of GMS. In a survey after Town Meeting, some residents said the plan for a new elementary school did not properly address what would happen to GMS and how much it would cost to renovate the school or demolish it and build another school.