School Project Discussion Moves to Council, BOF
CROMWELL - The Board of Education is leaning toward reconstructing the Edna C. Stevens (ECS) Elementary School and performing renovate-as-new work on Cromwell Middle School, but the Town Council and Board of Finance will weigh-in before any decision is made.

       Board members voted unanimously to move the discussion on to a joint meeting that will take place between all three of the bodies.

       Plans are far from concrete at this point, but Board members and consultants do not expect the first project-likely to be work at ECS-to begin before 2021. The Middle School might fall into 2023, with bond payments for past projects expected to be paid off within each of those years.

       “There’s certainly support for doing something with those schools at some point,” said Board Chair Mike Camilleri. “It’s really a question of what and when?”

       And that raises the issue of finances, since it will depend largely on what money is available and when, said members of the Board of Finance, who were in attendance and participated in the discussion.

       The payment of bonds-Board of Finance members recommended replacing paid off debt with school projects to offset the impact on taxpayers-will push the project back, but the town also stands to save by doing it sooner than later, says BOF Chair Julius Neto.

       He estimated that starting construction two years sooner could generate up to $10 million once cost inflation is considered.

       “Nothing is ever gonna get cheaper, and two years is huge in cost,” Neto said.

       Reconstructing ECS for 900 square foot classrooms, a 2,000 square foot media center, and a 6,000 square foot gymnasium would cost-by preliminary estimates-$36.1 million. But with state aid factored in, Cromwell’s tab comes to $21.6 million, consultants said.

       For the Middle School, a renovation would run for $33.3 million.

       The sets of space dimensions presented by consultants included tentative plans for 1,000 square foot pre-K and Kindergarten classrooms, as well as one for 1200 square feet.

       Superintendent of Schools Paula Talty, as well as Board members, ultimately felt that 900 square feet per classroom would be enough.

       “Twelve hundred is a large, large space,” Talty said. “I have not been in any classroom-at least in a public school-that was 1200 square feet.”

       Five tentative renovation plans for the two Cromwell schools were presented by consultants from Drummey, Rosane, Anderson, Inc. (DRA) at the May 10 Board of Education meeting.

       Edna Stevens, along with Cromwell Middle School, have segments that were constructed 60 years ago, consultants with DRA said. So the firm presented a slew of tentative options that range from doing nothing and making repairs as needed, to replacing both buildings completely.

       In between, were plans to maintain the existing facility, renovate the two buildings in their existing footprint, or renovate them while putting constructing additional wings.

       And the needs are not limited just to addressing the infrastructure deterioration, consultants said. Technology and special education-a couple of areas that weren’t on the radar when the buildings were first constructed-have to be accounted for as well, he said.

       DRA, which began examining the buildings in late December, said that the deterioration has more to do with aging than any kind of maintenance shortfalls over the years.