STONINGTON — A tight construction schedule at Deans Mill Elementary School is driving the district’s decision to pack up and move classrooms at all three of the town’s elementary schools during the last week in March.
Preparation for demolition of the 1975 portion of Deans Mill School will need to begin on April 1 in order for building materials to be removed and a parking lot built in the wing’s place by mid-August. That target is necessary in order to be ready in time for the opening of school in September, Superintendent Van Riley said Friday.
To adhere to that schedule, teachers who have classrooms in the 1975 wing must pack up their materials and move to the newly-constructed wing on March 29, he said. Paralleling Deans Mill, all teachers in West Broad Street School and some at West Vine Street School will also move to their new classrooms at West Vine Street School on March 29.
Riley sent a memo to parents and guardians on Feb. 14 detailing certain K-8 schedule changes, which included cancelling early release days on March 20, 21 and 22 and rescheduling them to March 25 and 26 so that teachers could use the time to pack up their classrooms.
March 27 and 28 will remain regular schedule days for students in grades K-8. March 29 has been designated at a "professional day" district-wide, with no school for students while teachers are relocating.
Riley said the district expected to receive Certificates of Occupancy for both Deans Mill and West Vine Street schools on March 21 and 22.
The moves will be somewhat simplified because the new classrooms will be furnished with new furniture and technology, Riley said
“We’ll be moving teachers’ materials and the things they want to bring with them,” he said. “The nice thing is we won’t be moving any furniture because we’ll have new furniture.”
Any leftover furniture, file cabinets or equipment that the district wants to keep from the 1975 Deans Mill wing will be moved to storage by March 30, Riley said.
Riley acknowledged that the initial plan for West Broad Street School was to wait on the move until the close of school in June, but the community’s enthusiasm about the new classrooms at West Vine changed that schedule.
“Originally we said, 'let’s wait to the end of the year and move,' but everybody’s excited about it — the kids, the teachers, the parents,” he said. “People said, 'if Deans Mill is going into the new building, we want to go, too.'”
Riley also said he was in favor or the timing of the moves because students will be settled into their new classroom before state testing at the April and early May.
“We didn’t want to interrupt that process,” he said. “So it was either let’s do it early or we’ll wait until the end of the school year.”
He also said the moves would not subtract from instructional time.
“If you look at the amount of instructional time, they’ll be in a new classroom starting April 1,” he said. “It’s the same teacher in a new classroom, so there’s no loss of instructional time.”
The early release dates on March 25 and 26 and the professional development day on March 29 will also give middle school teachers some hours to begin organizing their classrooms.
Completion of the $67 million expansion and renovation of Stonington’s two elementary schools was originally scheduled for July 2018 but a number of delays pushed occupancy from August 2018 to January 2019 and finally to September 2019.
At the town's middle schools, a move is also in the works for the end of the school year.
With consolidation planned for the upcoming 2019-20 school year, Pawcatuck Middle School teachers in grades 6, 7 and 8 will move their classrooms to Mystic Middle School, which will be renamed Stonington Middle School. Fifth-grade teachers from both Pawcatuck and Mystic Middle schools will move their classrooms to West Vine Street and Deans Mill schools respectively, while some Mystic Middle School teachers will pack and move their classrooms within the building.
Once Pawcatuck Middle School is vacant, the building will be renovated to house the district’s administration offices, an alternative education program and space for town recreational activities. West Broad Street School and the district’s Central Office building will be sold or given to the town.