STONINGTON — The Board of Selectmen agreed Wednesday to enter into a discussion with the Rev. Dennis Perkins, pastor of St. Michael Church, about a possible lease of the West Broad Street School building.
Christopher Donahue of the Stonington Facilities Committee presented selectmen with a letter written by temporary chairman Paul Sartor outlining the committee’s recommendation for leasing the school to St. Michael, which offers pre-kindergarten to eighth grade instruction at its school in Pawcatuck.
Calling the lease a “win-win” for the town and the school, the letter stated that the surrounding neighborhood and local law enforcement officials have had “serious concern for the various negative consequences of leaving WBSS vacant for any period of time.”
The committee also determined that the best use of the former elementary school building would be to continue as a school, as that use “would require minimum, if any, capital investment to permit near immediate occupancy.”
Perkins, the letter stated, has expressed interest in leasing the school as early as the 2019-20 school year, and has also conveyed interest in preserving and maintaining the historic building.
The facilities committee suggested a relatively short-term lease of three to five years, which would allow St. Michael School to determine if West Broad Street School fits its long-term needs.
First Selectman Rob Simmons noted that the school belongs to the town and comes under the Department of Public Works, and that a decision on the lease would need to involve those entities and the town attorney.
“I think this is pretty straightforward,” Simmons said.
Selectman John Prue said, “This came really quickly but it certainly seems compatible with the neighborhood and what the neighbors being affected want to do.” He suggested an informal sit-down with all concerned parties to discuss terms and costs.
Simmons said the board had asked the facilities committee to explore options and then give its their advice, “And I think this is good advice and worthy of pursuing.”
Selectwoman Jocelyn Kepple asked if the committee would continue to look for options once the school’s lease has ended in two or three years.
“We’re going to keep it open and continue to explore other options, but right now we think moving this forward will be the best benefit for everybody,” Donahue said.
The 120-year-old building closed its doors in March and its students were moved to the newly constructed wing of West Vine Street School. Built in 1898 by Wilson Potter of New York, the school originally accommodated 600 students and in its final year held about 150 third- and fourth-graders.