Following a pair of meetings April 15 and 16, First Selectman Pat Llodra said she has secured a commitment from state officials that they will waive certain procedural requirements to help fast-track any reconstruction or new construction the town proposes related to Sandy Hook School.
The school facility has been vacant since the mass shooting tragedy of 12/14. Following the holiday break, classes for SHS students resumed at the former Chalk Hill School in Monroe.
The town and school district have already secured use of the Monroe facility through the 2013-14 school year, and may need to continue using that facility beyond that point if renovations or reconstruction of a new school in Sandy Hook is not complete. Board of Education Chair Debbie Leidlein told The Bee this week that a new or renovated facility may not be ready for Sandy Hook students and staff until the 2014-15 school year.
Both she and Mrs Llodra said the ultimate goal is to get Newtown students and staff back into a local facility as soon as it is appropriate. On Friday, April 19, a committee of more than two dozen local officials will continue deliberating possible sites to either relocate, or ways to appropriately renovate on the site of the current school.
During her meetings this week, Mrs Llodra said she met with leadership from the state Department of Education’s school facilities unit, securing a waiver from guidelines municipalities typically are required to follow when proposing state assistance for school building funding.
“That includes accelerating the timetable to get a plan on the current project list once we decide on a project,” Mrs Llodra said. “We will not be required to wait up to a year once a decision has been finalized, or be delayed by other bureaucratic or regulatory processes.”
She described the state school officials as being “very cooperative and wholly in support of what Newtown needs to do.”
Newtown will, however, be required to fulfill a punch list of criteria that is expected of any municipality requesting state school construction funding. Those items include submitting a formal application with the agreement that it would likely be delivered outside the otherwise stipulated timeframe.
The town would also be required to provide all approved plans for state review; participate in competitive bidding for all facets of a school construction or renovation project; and submit to a post-project audit.
On Tuesday, Mrs Llodra was back in Hartford meeting with a delegation that included Newtown lawmakers Mitch Bolinsky, DebraLee Hovey, a representative from Senator John McKinney’s office, and Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman. Armed with agreements from the previous day, the first selectman began working with elected officials to craft legislation that will be required to enable the state education department to accommodate Newtown’s needs.
“The issue is that legislation needs to be enacted before this current session ends in June,” Mrs Llodra said. “So we will also be working closely with school facility officials to be sure the legislative language is accurate.”
The first selectman said once the location has been determined, the town will begin “getting into what that new building will look like.” While supporting work continues in Hartford, Mrs Llodra said locally Superintendent Janet Robinson and incoming Interim Superintendent John Reed have been working with a technical team crafting educational specifications for a new Sandy Hook School.
“The goal is create a new Sandy Hook School as timely as good decisionmaking will allow,” Mrs Llodra said. “This is not a linear process, there are a lot of simultaneous things going on which demand collaboration. And we have been working to be sure we have voices at the state level championing the process.”