Will schools' central office be leaving longtime home?
Published 7:38 pm, Wednesday, July 28, 2010
The location of the New Milford school district's central office is a hot topic these days.
At question is whether possible extra classroom space at John Pettibone School on Pickett District Road or Schaghticoke Middle School on Hipp Road could be retrofitted so the offices could move from the historic Catherine E. Lillis Administration Building on East Street.
School district facilities manager John Calhoun is seeking preliminary cost estimates to reconfigure Pettibone and Schaghticoke to accommodate central offices. He expects to report his findings to the Board of Education in early September.
School district officials currently occupy 10,000 square feet in the Lillis building on East Street. The town's Youth Agency occupies the third floor.
The school district is responsible for the upkeep of a town-owned, three-story brick edifice that served as the high school from 1931 to 1962.
The building costs about $100,000 annually to maintain and needs major repairs and upgrades that could cost as much as half a million dollars.
Superintendent of Schools JeanAnn Paddyfote said a move of central offices is not as simple as it might seem.
A key issue could be offices' central location, she said, adding Schaghticoke is located on the northern end of the district while John Pettibone is a mile or so from downtown.
A move would also require renovations to segregate offices from the respective school's operations, and be equipped for year-round use, Dr. Paddyfote and Mr. Calhoun said.
Sufficient parking would also be needed to accommodate the additional staff, they added.
Mr. Calhoun had reviewed the study commissioned four years ago by Sevigny Architects. The four options in that report were renovating the current building for about $8 milllion; an addition at Northville Elementary School on Hipp Road for about $4.1 million; renovating the Richmond Citizen Center on Main Street for about $5 million; or an addition at Sarah Noble Intermediate School on Sunny Valley Road for about $4.2 million.
While Mr. Calhoun suggested the board upgrade that study, board member Wiliam Wellman countered there is no need. What is needed now, he said, would be estimates on use of extra space in the existing schools.
In his report, Mr. Calhoun said none of the existing six schools could now readily accommodate a central office. Any move would require renovations, and would likely impact existing programs, he said.
One of the most costly aspects of such a move would be relocating the technology department that houses the district's computer center, he said.
Of all of the choices, however, Mr. Calhoun said Pettibone is the most centrally located, and does have space that could be reconfigured.
It also has a separate parking lot area.
Board member Thomas McSherry said the issue boils down to efficiency and cost. He favored the in-house research so the board could weigh in whether it would pay to stay or go.
Mr. McSherry, too, said he thinks town leaders need to be asked about how such a move would impact its operations.