BERLIN - Saving Hubbard Elementary School was on the minds of many at a recent public forum on the elementary school redistricting study.
The meeting was a follow-up to a presentation made the week before by Drummey Rossane Anderson Inc., of South Windsor, at which public comment was not allowed.
“Hubbard School is not just 139 Grove Street. It’s something a lot more,” said Gary Brochu, a past Board of Education president and a member of a family of which three generations have attended Hubbard.
He also disputed the study’s assertion that the town needs housing for seniors. Brochu said that affordable housing for everyone is what is needed, as people don’t live in their houses forever and those occupied by seniors will eventually go back on the market.
As Brochu made his comments, members of the audience held up signs saying #HubbardForever.
Another parent, Jessica Silva, told the story of her son, who had a medical condition that occasionally kept him out of school, being visited at home by Hubbard Principal Alfred Souza, who would play with him.
“We cannot be afraid of the debt,” said Board of Finance Chairman Sam Lomaglio. He also said Town Council Republicans don’t want to work with the finance board, which wants to fully fund the schools, he said.
Drummey Rossane Anderson’s presentation cited a survey indicating that residents are satisfied with the schools’ performance, but that enrollment is declining as the 55-to-64 age group in Berlin grows.
That means the schools may have change in coming years as fewer students attend, said Arthur Wagman, demographic researcher for the study.
The study also found that Berlin’s housing market is not as active as those of other towns and that potential residents with children are being attracted to other towns.
As to how to address these issues, the study said the district could be proactive by anticipating some of the building needs, targeting improvements to the schools to cut down on operational costs, renovating the schools to enhance learning, eliminating one of the elementary schools while expanding the other two.
“You can’t just maintain; you need to get going,” said Greg Smolley, project manager for the study.
Closing a school would saddle the district with about $100,000 in costs to keep the vacant building running, Smolley added. It would also push class sizes beyond the 20-1 student-to-teacher ratio that parents and staff in the district said they want.
School board President Matt Tencza said after the forum that the next step is to keep the information from the study on hand when future decisions about the elementary schools need to be made.
The study is available on the school district’s website, berlinschools.org.