A hearing on a proposal to move students from into for the 2012-2013 year drew some concerns about the latter school’s condition.
Only three speakers attended the hearing, held before the Board of Education’s regular meeting on Thursday. Martha Bauduccio, who serves on the board’s building and maintenance committee, said she was worried about the handicapped accessibility of the building and its air quality. Shirley Gillis, a former teacher at Harbor School, said she had to install air conditioning in her classroom to improve its environment.
“I spent 33 years in that building, and when I left in ’04 the air quality wasn’t good,” said Gillis.
Heather Wydler, who has two children at Harbor School, said she does not have concerns about the staff there but rather structural issues. She said she has seen paint flaking off steel beams in the cafeteria when she has been in the building.
“I have a large concern with taking two schools and putting both of them into one building,” she said.
The proposal would at Harbor School. Though this building has a capacity of 435 students, it is assumed that at least 135 students will join the , which will become a regional magnet school for science, technology, mathematics, and engineering topics in the new school year.
The school administration estimates that the combination would save an estimated $597,000 in staff and utility savings, with further savings to the city of New London of $468,000 as a result of the elimination of lease payments for modular classrooms currently serving Nathan Hale students on Cedar Grove Ave. The move is also estimated to have in-kind savings to the city budget due to the reduction in trash removal, maintenance, and other services.
The district is estimating that an extra $4 million will have to be added to the budget to maintain the current level of services, and is seeking to cut costs if the City Council decides to keep the budget flat-funded. The savings would be offset by an estimated $82,000 in moving expenses and a 12 percent penalty to the city, or about $58,000, for early termination of the modular lease.
The consolidation would transfer some staffers to new positions budgeted for in the Winthrop School and eliminate the vacant positions left behind. The major savings would come from the elimination of one principal’s salary, with the principal departing for a dean of education position budgeted for in the Winthrop School. One teacher would be laid off if the consolidation takes place.
Board and administration reaction
Superintendent Nicholas Fischer said he was not surprised by the low turnout at the hearing.
“I’ve had virtually no calls, no e-mails,” he said. “And when people are concerned, we get a combination.”
Fischer said he would have any concerns about the Harbor School investigated immediately, but said there have been no major complaints raised. He said the air quality issues may be a result of Harbor School being an older building which does not have filtered air, and that dust and pollen may enter through open windows as a result.
Principal Donna Slate of the Nathan Hale School said there were some concerns about moving students and faculty after a move to the modulars already took place this school year, but said the staff would be willing to consolidate.
“It’s not that we’re thrilled to be packing again, but if it’s going to save money and save jobs we’re willing to do our best to make it work,” said Slate.
Board member Margaret Curtin and Secretary Jason Catala said they plan to vote against the consolidation when the issue comes before the board. This vote is expected to take place at a special meeting on March 1.
“I’m concerned about the kids,” said Curtin. “We just moved a bunch of kids from Nathan Hale to the modulars.”
Fischer said a rejection of the consolidation could potentially lead to layoffs if savings are not realized in another way.
“I understand what you’re saying, but it’s not a cut and dry issue,” said Fischer.