Enrollment study considers town’s educational needs

Derynoski Elementary School still looks very much the same as it did in this artist’s representation in 1950. The building opened that year as Southington High School after the closing of Lewis High School. (Courtesy of the 1950 Chronicle Yearbook)

By JEN CARDINES

STAFF WRITER

Town officials are considering Southington’s school needs and potential redistricting or closures.

Superintendent Timothy Connellan and the Board of Education sent out a request for proposals (RFP) for a public school enrollment study to examine the district. At the same time, Connellan has been talking with faculty, staff and PTO members in the town’s public schools to outline the study’s purpose and what it might mean for local schools.

With three outdated elementary schools, officials see a need to assess if the district will require eight elementary schools in the future, and how to provide renovations needed. The superintendent said that the study will examine redistricting because there is no way around it.

The Southington Public School system currently has eight elementary schools, two middle schools, an alternative high school, and Southington High School, totaling 12 buildings that the district maintains. Derynoski (1950), Flanders (1966), and Kelley (1966) elementary schools are the only three schools in town that have not received significant renovations since the year they were built.

The John Weichsel Municipal Center exists because of redistricting. Above, the building as it appeared when it was North Center School.

Connellan highlighted district changes since he moved to Southington—the biggest being that his current office sits in the middle of what used to be North Center Elementary School. After closing in 2005, North Center was transformed into the Municipal Center and students were re-assigned.

Connellan said that children in his own neighborhood live a mile and a half from Kelley school, but they attend Thalberg, which is considerably farther away. The RFP was designed to look at any shifts in the town’s population, along with any schools that need work. It’s an important step before any decisions are made.

The RFP is due back to the superintendent by March 2. The enrollment study includes a detailed analysis of many district factors, such as demographic overview, economic and employment trends, birth trends and projections, as well as historical housing trends, current developments and future development of residential zoned property.

“We have to look at this as something that is probably not going to happen again in the next 15 or 20 years,” Connellan said. “We have to look at those three schools. And if we’re going to maintain eight elementary schools, then what do we need to do to each of those schools?”

The committee as a whole will meet on March 15, and there will be time to examine the proposals in great detail. Then, at the March 26 BOE meeting, representatives from the bidding company will make a presentation prior to Board discussion. BOE members said that this process will not happen overnight.

“I could see us arriving at a decision during the 2017-18 school year,” Connellan said.

Once that first decision is made, another company will need to be chosen to conduct a different study, which Connellan sees happening during the 2018-19 school year.

“Perhaps we might be ready to go to the community in the fall of 2019,” said the superintendent. “I’m just speculating, but I think that’s the soonest.”

Officials plan to make a disseminated report available to the public to keep them informed, and Connellan stressed that any change will come after a community-wide discussion.

“I feel an obligation to my community to make sure this happens the right way,” he said. “The purpose is to make sure that we have the best data that we possibly can to help us with the discussion and decision making process.”

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