The Board of Education will go before the Town Council Monday night [May 24] to officially announce its endorsement of a proposed two-school building project. School board members are scheduled to present the proposal at 6 p.m. in the Audrey P. Beck Municipal Building before the council’s regular meeting.
Board members finalized their selection at their May 13 board of education meeting.
Their decision differs from the school building committee, which has endorsed consolidating the town’s elementary schools into one building.
Board of Education Chair Mark LaPlaca said the two schools would maintain the small, community feel that many town residents have said they want preserved, but it would also hit the “sweet spot” in terms of student enrollment.
Between 310 and 315 pupils would be enrolled at each school, a range that research indicates is the best size for elementary schools, said LaPlaca.
With the two-school building project, all three existing elementary schools in Mansfield would close and be replaced with two newer, larger elementary schools.
Currently, pupils in Mansfield attend one of three elementary schools and then go to Mansfield Middle School once they become fifth-graders.
Elementary schools in Mansfield include Southeast Elementary School, Dorothy C. Goodwin Elementary School and Annie E. Vinton Elementary School.
The two-school option would cost $59.58 million, including proposed renovations at Mansfield Middle School. Local taxpayers would fund $26.9 million of the total and the rest would come from state reimbursements which is estimated as 54.9 percent for school building construction.
Previous discussions have focused on building the new schools on the Southeast and Vinton sites, but location remain open to debate, said Celeste Griffin, Superintendent Fred Baruzzi’s administrative assistant.
“The sites would be determined (later),” she said.
Baruzzi could not be reached for comment.
According to LaPlaca, board members would like to have one school on the south end of town and another on the north end of town.
However, they will ask the Town Council to fully evaluate all land options in town, said LaPlaca.
Mansfield Director of Planning Gregory Padick has said there are few sites on which to build new school because of wetlands and other limitations.
The discussion about new schools, renovated schools and a consolidated school has been going on for a few years, now. At one time, four potential options were discussed, including not taking action now and delaying repairs at the four schools.
The proposal endorsed by board of education members is a fifth option that was added in April in response to negative feedback from many community members who opposed one, large consolidated school.
During several forums in the past six months, residents have expressed a desire to keep the smaller neighborhood-style schools in town rather than constructing larger schools, but LaPlaca said he thinks people will be able to support the two-school proposal.
“I think it’ll have a good amount of support,” he said this morning.
With the goal of a November 2 referendum, the Town Council will need to review the proposal and make a decision soon.
A public hearing is tentatively scheduled for June 14, and the Town Council is expected to take action on the proposal June 28.
Posted May 20, 2010