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Officials Open Talk on Future of Sandy Hook School

A task force made up of Newtown officials established ground rules and plan to receive site options in the next week.

 

Guided by facilitators from the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, Newtown officials established a set of principles as a series of meetings on the future of Sandy Hook School began at the Newtown Municipal Center Friday night.

Since the Dec. 14 shooting, Sandy Hook Elementary students have attended Chalk Hill School in Monroe. As early as January, the town has opened discussion on the school's fate, with both public forums and private meetings with staff, families and members of the Sandy Hook School community.

The task force includes selectmen Pat Llodra, Will Rodgers and Jim Gaston, as well as Newtown's Board of Education, Board of Finance and Legislative Council. In coming weeks, they will be presented with options and consider the best location for students of Sandy Hook Elementary School to resume classes when they return from Monroe.

"I think we have good decision-makers and good thinkers here," said Llodra. "There's no solution that's going to be 100 percent acceptable to any population. We've been saying from the beginning that compromise is the name of the game ... There's no perfect solution here. The perfect solution for the town of Newtown would be if this didn't happen to us."

The principles, which the task force said emerged over the course of various meetings with constitutents:

  • Do not redistrict Sandy Hook School students.
  • Locate the school in, or "immediately proximate to," Sandy Hook.
  • Ensure enough land at the site for a school, playground, parking lot and ball field.
  • Allow faculty/staff's perceptions and emotional status to influence recommendations.
  • The emotions and perceptions of victims' families and survivors are considered "very influential."
  • The opinions of Sandy Hook parents and community must be considered.
  • The location and site must be compatible with safety expectations.
  • Students should be returned to Newtown "as soon as good planning can allow for."
  • Both short-term and long-term thinking should guide site selection and building design.
  • Positive and negative physical attributes associated with the chosen site should be considered (for example, Dickinson Drive, the Sandy Hook firehouse and the Children's Adventure Center.)

The team will be presented with site options at the next meeting, scheduled for April 12. Officials said that meeting would focus on presentation of a "briefing book" containing the options prepared by a The third, scheduled for April 19, will allow officials a chance to question the viability of site options after having reviewed plans.

The long list of scenarios includes "all the sites [the team] considered, even the ones they never took past the first step," according to land use officials Rob Sibley and George Benson.

Through April and into May, the task force will meet regularly on Friday nights at the Municipal Center, working through the discussion of site options. If possible, according to schedule, the task force hopes to move to a decision by May 3, but the schedule allows for an additional meeting May 10 if needed.

"The most important thing I [think] is that we don't get redistricted," said Peter Baressi, a first responder and parent of a Sandy Hook first grader, during public comment.

"Our concern is we understand we are part of Newtown. Everybody has shown us how much they're a part of us as well. There's going to be some special needs... Kindergarten, first and second grade, given [t]heir relation in the school to what happened, will probably need a lot of extra help. Chalk Hill has been very good. However, it is not an elementary school. We know this process takes a long time. We have to act fact to get our kids back to an elementary school."

Read a blog post from facilitator Rich Harwood on why he decided to come to Newtown.

Lyners April 07, 2013 at 09:36 PM
So it sounds like the decision has been made not to return to SHES. When was that made? From what I've heard, many of the students want to return. Have their voices been listened to?
William April 08, 2013 at 12:36 AM
Every parent which has a student at that school should have a vote in this decision. It's not up to the school officials, the teachers or local officials. People need to learn from this, not run away from it. Parents called for more security, not relocation. There is some sort of history just about everywhere. This country strength comes from facing issues, even tragedys and becoming stronger. Let the parents and family make these decisions. Let the community grow and learn from this.
Thomas Crafts April 08, 2013 at 10:23 AM
This would be the only school in the country to be closed after a school shooting. How smart is that? Not very. We need to close a school anyway due to lack of enrollment. Hawleyville was certainly and still is the prime candidate, but if we as a community can't get a grip on ourselves, then SHES may have to fit the bill. Building a new school is out of the question considering the continued decline in enrollment in the district.
Michael Cragin April 08, 2013 at 10:50 AM
have "the commitee"...decide some options.....present them at the budget vote....taxpayers vote....option with the most votes....wins....Simple huh??..is democracy easy?
scortconcerned April 08, 2013 at 05:11 PM
I am assuming since the opinions of the other "communities" in this town are not important that means we will be exempt from the taxes that will come from this decision.
Teacher April 08, 2013 at 05:31 PM
Michael, I am a stakeholder in that my daughter will attend SHES in a few years, but I still do not think my vote should carry the same weight as the votes of parents of students who were there that day, or the teachers (many of whom do not live in our town). A committee is the best way of ensuring that the most important stakeholders are heard. A direct vote wouldn't be democratic at all, in that there would be decisions made without the proper representation by those affected. Personally, I very much hope that the current school is partially remodeled and reopened, but if the teachers and parents feel that's inadequate, I totally defer to their opinions. Especially the teachers...I believe children are resilient and that their good memories will outweigh the bad, and many of them will have moved on to Reed by the time a new or remodeled school is opened, but the teachers are there every day for years to come, and I think their opinions have to matter the most.
Teacher April 08, 2013 at 05:34 PM
The article in the Bee seemed to imply that they may be able to consider donation funding. But Pat Llodra seemed really reticent to talk about it. The Bee article went into more depth about the proceedings, including statements and questions about the money, which obviously has to play an important role.
Thomas Crafts April 08, 2013 at 09:39 PM
It's so easy to spend money when you don't have to pay it back. Borrowing 30-40 million to do this is financial suicide just for the feel good effect. WAKE UP WE ARE ALREADY IN FINANCIAL DISTRESS.
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com April 09, 2013 at 03:57 PM
As I read the Bee article I have to agree that a lot of leg work seems to have been done to build a new school. Perhaps just good planning or perhaps the decision has been made. Would the feds smile on Newtown if we built a new school and then closed Reed, our newest school.
Daniella Ruiz April 10, 2013 at 07:29 PM
as an object, it will be as associated with death as the weapon held by Adam. however, it was not the cause or means to death, just as the air that now fills it. as the murder of people in Europe's wars were confined to buildings, those were reused, the the people healed and learned to go forward, as those in Newtown must. it is a learning place, it is about courage, not about structures.

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