Welcome back! I hope you and your family enjoyed the first week of school, and your year is off to a good start. For those families new to the Wilton Public Schools, I trust you’ve had a smooth transition thus far and are beginning to see firsthand what makes Wilton great. The District and our staff have worked over the summer to help ensure our students will have a rich and fulfilling year.
I know our entire community was shocked by last month’s news that one of our Miller-Driscoll paraprofessionals had been arrested. The nature of this individual’s alleged activities are especially hard to comprehend, since we trusted him with our youngest and in some cases our most vulnerable children. I’d like to thank our new superintendent, Dr. Kevin Smith for his work to quickly communicate with our parent community about the incident. Dr. Smith has indicated that he intends to continue to provide information as it becomes available, and we are grateful for his efforts–keeping in mind, of course, that student privacy concerns and the active criminal investigation will preclude him from disclosing certain details.
I hope everyone has circled this Thursday, Sept. 4 and Tuesday, Sept. 23 on their calendars! Thursday, Sept. 4 is the date of the next and final informational meeting about the Miller-Driscoll building project. It will be at the Wilton Library at 7 p.m..
Tuesday, Sept. 23 is the date of the special town meeting to discuss – and vote on – the Miller-Driscoll building project. The meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the WHS Clune Center. Voting will commence immediately following the meeting, and will continue on Saturday, Sept. 27 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., also in the Clune Center.
The M-D building project is a proposed $50 million renovation that would fundamentally change the look and feel of this 60-plus year-old building (actual cost to the town will be approximately $44M after State reimbursement). As anyone who has spent any time in Miller-Driscoll can attest, the building is old, and desperately in need of major system repairs and upgrading.
I encourage you to visit the M-D building project website for detailed information about what the renovation will entail. But a few of the major improvements include:
- New HVAC system
- Roof replacement
- Creation of new space to house Pre-school services, with separate entryway and parking area
- Refurbished restrooms
- Creation of new, centrally located cafeteria and gym
- Reconfiguration of existing “core/neighborhood format” for greater efficiency
- Reconfiguration of entryway and parking areas
I’ve had several people question the decision to renovate the building, rather than construct a completely new school. I had that same question myself, and have discussed the issue at length with members of the M-D building committee, and representatives from Turner Construction, the firm that will manage the project.
What I learned I’ve shared in a previous “Notes from the Board Table,” but since many families were on vacation, here they are again:
- Cost. New construction would cost between $70-80 million, would require the Town to assume a significantly larger amount of debt and would result in a reduction in the percentage of state reimbursement the town receives (the state reimburses less for new construction than it does for renovations).
- Space. Construction of a new facility would require roughly 35 acres of flat, usable land. Such a parcel simply does not exist in Wilton. I confirmed this by working with the leadership of the building committee and the town clerk’s office to look at every parcel we could think of (including the town forest). Allen’s Meadow seemed like the most viable option until we learned that the bulk of that parcel is controlled by the State Department of Transportation, which is unwilling to trade it, sell it or let any structure be built on it. We also explored this with our state representatives. Consideration was also given to building on the current open portions of the Miller-Driscoll property. Unfortunately there is nowhere near enough space to conduct school and build a new facility at the same time.
While we are very proud of the learning that goes on within the Miller-Driscoll walls, I hope we can agree that the time has come to improve the building itself.
Sept. 23 is a key date. That is our chance to come together as a community and cast our votes. Please don’t assume your vote won’t mater, or that “other people” will show up. We have an unfortunate history in Wilton of very low voter turnout. Improving Miller-Driscoll, the gateway to the Wilton Public Schools, is critically important. I hope everyone can find the time to attend the Sept. 23 town meeting, or to stop by the Clune Center on Saturday, Sept. 27 to cast a vote.
I hope everyone is enjoying the District website’s new look and feel. If you haven’t seen it, please check it out at www.Wilton.K12.CT.US. Our next Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. in the Wilton High School Professional Library which is on the second floor of the high school above the Board of Education offices. We welcome visitors and also welcome comments by email at BOE@Wilton.K12.CT.US.
“Notes from the Board Table” is the regular feature contributed by Bruce Likly, chairman of the Wilton Board of Education.