Schools offer redistricting plan

Republican, The (Springfield, MA) - Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Author: MANON L. MIRABELLI, STAFF: The Republican (Springfield, MA)
The proposal also calls for adding Granville to the Southwick-Tolland school district. 

SOUTHWICK - Officials of the Southwick-Tolland Regional School District's two towns have endorsed the submission of a $69 million proposal to the state for a plan that would reconfigure schools to create a junior/senior high school and convert the middle school into a grades three through six facility. 

That $69 million pricetag would result in a net cost to the town of about $29 million after state reimbursements from the Massachusetts School Building Authority. 

Broken down by community, Southwick's share of the project would amount to $24.5 million, or 84 percent, with Tolland paying 49 percent for $1.2 million and Granville being responsible for 12 percent, or $3.5 million. 

The plan was approved during a joint meeting of Southwick and Tolland officials who sit on the boards of selectmen and finance commissions, as well as school committee members, who support the proposal presented by Jonathan F. Winikur, of Strategic Building Solutions from Old Saybrook, Conn., and Superintendent of School John D. Barry. 

In addition to the school building project, the proposal also calls for a three-town regionalization that would add Granville to the Southwick-Tolland Regional School District thereby increasing the state's reimbursement rate on a building project up to six percentage points. 

"This is a big opportunity for you," Winikur said. 

Residents of all three towns would have to approve the regionalization proposal at their respective town meetings. 

The MSBA board, Winikur explained, is scheduled to meet in July, and if it gives its nod to the proposal, officials will be able to move forward to "fully study the plan" and come up with two cost estimates. 

Calling the high school the "flagship" of the town's three schools, Winikur said that with an enrollment of 566 students, the building is currently beyond its 470-student maximum capacity. 

"It has a severely undersized administration office and the sciences area is severely lacking," he said. "The main entrance does not suggest this is where you go." 

Constructing "a significant addition" to the high school that was originally built in 1971 and reconfiguring it to include a middle school, Winikur added, would create "the best of both worlds and focuses the majority of new construction at one site." 

The proposed 58,000-square-foot addition would be constructed to the back of the building in a horseshoe design while the rest of the school would be modernized and renovated to meet the accessibility standards established by the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

The junior/senior high school proposal was well received by town and school officials who noted that there configuration would provide a new crop of junior high school students with additional athletic and foreign language study opportunities. 

"The grades seven through 12 model give us lots of exciting options using the same full-time equivalent (for teachers) with no additional staff." Barry said. 

Members of the STRSD School Building Committee favored the addition proposal that would allow students in grades seven and eight to move to the high school. 

In the plan, Powder Mill Middle School would house students in grades three through six, and Woodland Elementary would serve children from pre-kindergarten through grade two. 

Once a plan has been recommended, Winikur said, the project will move on to the schematic design phase and estimates can be developed.