STONINGTON — Although they met in a library media center marred by a pair of leak tents and a few brown-stained ceiling tiles, many in a large group of Deans Mill Elementary School parents said they were hopeful after the conclusion of an informational session Tuesday night.
Dozens attended the meeting, which was called to discuss the roof at Deans Mill. It is leaking in spots around the school, including the cafeteria, library media center and gym.
“I came here ready to fight and plead for the roof to be fixed,” said Elaine Lettiere, a parent of a first-grader. “I’m heartened there’s a plan, and I appreciate it is going to get fixed. It’s just sad how we got here.”
The Board of Education agreed last week to earmark $92,000 in the capital improvement project budget for the replacement of the roof over the cafeteria. Since then, board Chairman Frank Todisco told the group, talks with Board of Finance Chairman John O’Brien have escalated to the idea of including all four of the school’s active leaking systems.
“We’ve been talking about the magnitude of the roof issues,” Todisco said. “We’re looking at what needs to be done and where the money can come from so we can get this done in one shot.”
Todisco and Superintendent Van W. Riley said discussions with the Board of Finance should happen within the next few weeks.
“We understand the severity of the roof issues — all of us do, the School Board, Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen,” Todisco said. “We’re looking at funding sources and what will allow us to fix the roof the quickest.”
Ken Donovan, the district’s facilities manager, estimates that fixing the four leaking systems over the cafeteria, library media center, gym and a classroom would cost between $300,000 and $400,000.
The roof was installed in 1973 and has had overlays or repairs in the years since. It has had leaks for at least eight years, said Bill King, district operations manager.
Principal Doug Hammel said, “Within the last two years, the leaks have gotten significant. They’ve gotten to be a lot more regular.”
Leak tents have been set up across the school to collect water, which some parents have described as “nasty and brownish-green.” Water is collected in the tents and drained into buckets, or in the library’s case, trash cans.
“If this was a day care it would be shut down,” said Lisa Hoagland, a parent of two students who attend Deans Mill and a 3-year-old. “I’m concerned with the safety of the staff and students. There are so many things to be proud of here. It’s very deflating.
“These are not the conditions I want my kids to be in. This is Stonington, this is supposed to be where you want your kids to go, and I have to worry about the roof leaking. It’s unacceptable.”
Riley assured parents that the air quality in the school is safe and that officials were moving forward with a plan not only to fix the roof at Deans Mill, but with a long-range facilities plan.
“It’s not just about fixing Deans Mill,” Riley said. “It’s about all the schools — the carpet, other schools’ roofs… it’s a long-range plan for all of our facilities.”
Skylights were installed in 2010 in 24 locations throughout Deans Mill. The latest overlays or repairs to the roof over the cafeteria were in 2001-02. The last repairs to the roof over the library media center and gym were in 2000.
According to an assessment of the roof by Garland Roof Company, 2014-15 was the recommended time frame for the cafeteria’s roof to be replaced, and 2015-16 for replacement of the roof over the library and gymnasium.
“A lot of us move here with our families basically for the schools,” said Daniel Kelley, the president of the PTO at Deans Mill. “If the parents here could raise the money to fix the roof, we would, but it’s not up to us. Let’s take care of it, and let’s get it done.”
Several school and town officials attended the meeting Tuesday, including Selectwoman Glee McAnanly, who praised the parents in attendance.
“This is helpful because we see where you guys want to go and what’s important,” McAnanly said. “There are a whole lot of things that need to be done on our schools and town buildings and we need to work together, all of us. I encourage parents to go to the Board of Education, Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen meetings.”
“Keep us accountable,” she said.
If money is approved, Donovan, the facilities manager, said work on the roofing systems at Deans Mill could begin this spring.
Emily Kuhn, a parent of a second-grader, said, “I’m hopeful, and I want to see where this talking comes into action. You’re skeptical until you see it, but I’m hopeful that the (boards) will step up to the plate for this.”