Mixed reactions greet Region 12's 'future' tour
School officials and the architectural firm Fletcher-Thompson have a big job on their hands promoting the construction of a consolidated elementary school in Region 12.
Daniel L. Casinelli, a Fletcher-Thompson representative, and his team are on a speaking tour of the region's three towns, gathering resident input and promoting the project for the Board of Education.
Bridgewater residents resisted the firm's attempt to engage them during a Dec. 3 forum at Burnham School.
The following evening, the firm received a warmer response during a forum at Shepaug Valley Middle/High School for Washington.
A forum was also set Wednesday, Dec. 11 at Booth Free School in Roxbury.
In Bridgewater, Casinelli and his team were met with angst and anger as some 50 residents of the town essentially took control of the meeting.
Questions about why Fletcher-Thompson was hired for $102,000 and why a consolidation plan had come to this pre-referendum point took precedence over the actual plans.
Resident after resident expressed his or her displeasure with the region's proposal to close Burnham School.
Carolan Dwyer, an organizer of Save Our School, pointed out Bridgewater's three representatives on the Board of Education had repeatedly voted against consolidation plans.
The town does not want consolidation, she said.
The education board vote was 8 to 4 to hire Fletcher-Thompson and project managers Arcadis pre-referendum, at the cost of $102,000.
"We were hired to develop a conceptual design of a pre-K to fifth grade school and to determine the cost for the referendum," Casinelli said. "We're trying to understand why you like this (Burnham) school, what you would do to this school to improve it."
Parent Suzanne Creech responded.
"You're missing the point," she said. "This school is our community. Everyone gets involved in the school when their child is here and that carries on to membership in the fire department, to other areas of the town."
While Bridgewater residents are vehemently opposed to consolidation, the 12 parents from Roxbury and Washington in attendance Dec. 4 were readily onboard with discussing what they would like to see in a new consolidated school on the Shepaug campus.
"Some of the parents have a problem with this but the kids will be fine with it," said Washington father Jay Hubelbank. "It will make a better community for all the kids. Parents will all know each other from their children's first-grade years all the way through."
Roxbury mom Carrie DeMilio noted, "I don't like that currently schools like Burnham are right on the main street of the town. I work in a different school district and I like that you have to go through a guard station to get on campus."
Nicholas Macy, the senior project manager for Arcadis, said security would be a paramount concern in his company's oversight of a consolidated school project.
"School security is a topic everywhere we go," Macy said. "You want flexibility. You want to know kids are safe but you don't want to go over the top and have kids feel like they're going into a prison."
"We need to learn from you where that middle ground is from your perspective," he added.
Fletcher-Thompson and Arcadis staff will make a presentation of their findings to the Region 12 Board of Education Monday, Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. in the library at Shepaug Middle/High School.