School space solutions elusive
Published 12:58 pm, Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Darien schools will add requests for a cafeteria expansion at Darien High School and a new storage building identified in a consultant’s ongoing study of the district’s space constraints.
But the study was unable to answer whether enrollment growth will require more space at Middlesex Middle School or the town’s five elementary schools, Superintendent Dr. Dan Brenner said during an update to the Board of Education on the long-awaited study.
While enrollment has remained stable in recent years and an overall enrollment decline of 58 students between 2016 and 2020 has been projected, officials have been concerned about a space crunch bumping up class sizes at the elementary and middle school levels beyond recommended numbers if the schools reach capacity.
Brenner said while the consultant’s results, which were reviewed by the district’s facilities committee last week, discussed space constraints at Middlesex and the elementary schools, it did not include well-defined solutions.
“They came back with solutions that didn’t really excite the facilities committee so the committee has decided to look at a more comprehensive master plan with more solutions than were presented to us,” Brenner said. “The fact they (the consultant) came back with less-than-adequate answers has left the facilities committee with no answers.”
Brenner said the consultant will work with the Board of Education’s facilities committee during the just started budget season to formulate potential solutions to deal with overcrowding at the two lower school levels. The consultant has recommended the district eliminate the use of portable classrooms at elementary schools, Brenner said.
The consultant did definitively recommend a 1,300 square foot expansion of the high school’s cafeteria estimated to cost $750,000 to $1.025 million, according to Brenner’s presentation, an improvement that would add a minimum of 56 additional seats.
The recommendation of one or more storage buildings at the high school addresses a long-acknowledged need to replace outdoor storage containers with a dedicated structure to store outdoor athletic equipment, Brenner said.
That project would cost $200,000 to $250,000, according to the consultant’s estimates.
“We have seven containers parked in the back of the high school and it is truly problematic when you look at how we are managing with these seven containers,” Brenner said.
Brenner said district officials also want to add $45,000 to the 2016-2017 capital budget to replace the Ox Ridge School gym floor, which is approaching, “dangerous condition.”
The total initial proposed budget from Brenner for the 2016-2017 school year totals $94.2 million, a 3.85-percent increase over the current fiscal year’s budget of $90.7 million.
The next regular Board of Education meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26, at the Darien Board of Education, 35 Leroy Ave.