Board delays action on plan for elementary schools

Published on Thursday, 14 December 2017 23:04
Written by Charles Paullin


BERLIN - A feasibility study on reconfiguring three elementary schools has been delayed until at least January.

During the Board of Education meeting Monday, action on the study was tabled until more formal proposals are received.

The idea for the study originated earlier this year when the board discussed merging Hubbard Elementary School with the other two elementary schools as a way to save funds amid looming state aid cuts.

After the board decided to wait on merging the schools until a feasibility study was done, Eva Gallupe, director of business operations for the school district, sought informal proposals from three different companies: Friar Architecture Inc., of Farmington, for $9,500; the New England School Development Council, of Marlborough, Mass., for $9,720; and Milone & MacBroom, of Cheshire, for $24,750.

“Is it feasible to reconfigure, and what are the cost savings to reconfigure?” Assistant Superintendent Brian Benigni, who will become superintendent on Jan. 3 once Erwin retires, said Monday.

Board member Julia Dennis suggested having the whole town, outside of just the three elementary schools, evaluated for efficiencies.

“It would be nice to have just the elementary school quote, versus the whole district, and then we can make the smarter choice,” she said, while also proposing the idea of moving the Board of Education offices.

Benigni rebutted saying the Board of Education offices currently fulfill their needs.

Board members Jaymee Miller, Tim Oakes and Jeff Cugno also rebuked the suggestion.

“I don’t think that’s what our point was,” said Miller, who said the original focus was on merging Hubbard - a school with 211 students in 2017 - with Griswold and Willard - schools with over 490 students each. “If you open it up to talking about the middle school and the high school we’re never going to get this done or have a legitimate conversion,” she added.

Oakes said realigning the middle and high schools isn’t suggested by the education administrators for development purposes, to which Benigni agreed.

“I don’t think it’s developmentally appropriate,” said Benigni on adding fifth grade to currently sixth through eighth grade middle school and eighth to ninth through 12th grade high school.

He said districts will do that sometimes during construction times, but only out of necessity. Superintendent of Schools David Erwin agreed, saying the middle and high school are pretty much at max capacity.

Tencza clarified that while the request for a more formal proposal kept the ball from rolling on the item, it didn’t commit the board to conducting the study. There was also no objection to wanting to go forward with the study once the board figured out exactly what it will accomplish.

“This expenditure I think is one where we spend money today to find savings in the future,” Tencza said. He added the study could also create more consistency throughout the district by not having elementary school curriculum taught three different ways across three different buildings.

The next school board meeting is Jan. 8.

Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or

Posted in New Britain Herald, Berlin on Thursday, 14 December 2017 23:04. Updated: Thursday, 14 December 2017 23:07.