Public to weigh in on school plan

LITCHFIELD – Residents will get a glimpse of the old and the plans for the new tonight at Griffin Memorial School.

The School Board and school building committee are holding a forum on their proposal for a new elementary school for grades 1-5 and pre-kindergarten.

The forum will be held at Griffin Memorial School at 7 p.m. There will also be tours of the school at 6 and 8 p.m.

The new school, if built, would have a core capacity of 1,000 students and an enrollment of 774. It would be built near the middle school and cost roughly $20 million, according to School Board members.

The plans would have to be approved by voters at Town Meeting in March. Any building project would involve a bond, requiring a 60 percent approval to pass.

The building committee is still working with the architect to refine the plans, School Board member Cindy Couture said. The committee is trying to compile a list of technology, such as computers, and furniture that will be needed in an attempt to refine those numbers, she said.

During the forum, plans for the new school will be presented and discussed. The committee will also present information on why the group chose to propose one school and some of the challenges the school district would have faced if it tried to renovate the current elementary school, according to Couture.

Previously, the board had proposed building a new school for grades 1-4 and renovating GMS for school administrative unit offices and grade five. The proposal did not garner enough support at Town Meeting this year.

“There seem to be a lot of people who don’t realize the condition of GMS,” Couture said.

Those conditions include a lack of space, Couture said. There’s not enough room for arts and computers, and “every single nook and cranny” is filled, she said.

The building also has a long history of humidity problems and issues with ongoing repairs to various equipment, such as boilers, she said.

The School Board and building committee are still discussing possible uses for Griffin if a new school is approved. One option is to sell the building, Couture said.

One of the biggest concerns was the committee did not want the school to continue to require money for upkeep and use after a new school opened, Couture said.

The forum will be the first of several meetings and presentations on the proposed school, Couture said. The board also hopes to make a presentation to air on the local cable channel.

“It’s time to start getting information out there to a broader audience,” she said.