Is Stonington poised to consolidate its two middle schools in Mystic?

Is Stonington poised to consolidate its two middle schools in Mystic?


Frank V. Todisco

STONINGTON — The Board of Education is considering consolidating the town’s two middle schools and will hold four public meetings in early October to receive community input on the idea.

Superintendent Van Riley sent out notices to the parents and community members of Pawcatuck Middle School and Mystic Middle School on Wednesday letting them know the Board of Education has established a steering committee to look at the concept and inviting them to public discussions relating to the potential consolidation.

The Pawcatuck Middle School meeting will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 4, at 6 p.m. in the school’s cafeteria.

The Mystic Middle School meeting will be held Thursday, Oct. 5, at 6 p.m. in the school’s cafeteria.

A meeting for Pawcatuck Middle School staff will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 4, at 3 p.m., and one for the Mystic Middle School staff will be held on Thursday, Oct. 5, at 3 p.m.

Parents and community members also received the “Middle School Consolidation Report” detailing a number of significant issues that will influence the board’s final decision. The biggest factors were: The district’s declining enrollment; the relocation of fifth grade from the middle schools to the elementary schools upon completion of the two elementary school construction projects; issues of providing equal programs at both middle schools; and concerns about financial uncertainties at the state level.

If consolidation were to occur, the middle school would be located at Mystic Middle School because of its larger capacity, according to the report. Enrollment projections showed that grades 6 - 8 will continue to decrease to about 400 to 440 students over the next nine years, resulting in about 200 to 220 students per middle school. The official state-reported capacities for Pawcatuck and Mystic Middle School buildings are 380 and 525, respectively.

If the consolidation were to happen at the Mystic school, it would require improvements such as additional air conditioning and parking and other enhancements.

It is estimated the district would save about $800,000 to $1 million annually if the two schools were consolidated, according to the report.

Combining the two schools could open the door to educational opportunities that are not possible with the current two-school configuration, according to the summary report. Currently the district cannot offer an equally full array of classes in world languages, music, the arts, and technology at both sites.

Some of the other issues needing further investigation are the time and length of bus routes; the relocation of the School-Based Health Center operated by the Child and Family Agency from Pawcatuck to Mystic; Title I funds transferring to the new site; and renaming Mystic Middle School.

Board discussions about a potential consolidation started in late winter, Board of Education Chairman Frank Todisco Friday.

He said the steering committee was formed to delineate and examine a host of issues, such as the impact of increasing employment rates at key employers in the area such as Electric Boat and how the district could use the Pawcatuck Middle School building if the consolidation were located at Mystic Middle.

“The biggest overarching factor is going to be what is in the best interest of the kids and how to provide all of our children at the middle school the same opportunities — that’s a key piece that we’re looking at and is at the top of the list as we go through this process,” he said.

Todisco said the board set up the four meetings because it wanted to hear the community’s thoughts on the concept.

“We’re looking forward to things being brought to our attention that we haven’t even considered,” he said. “We certainly want to it to be an open process.”

The ultimate decision will be made by the Board of Education, he said.

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