It is still unclear where the Miller-Driscoll elementary school renovations will remain just that, or if the upgrades are so extensive that an entirely new building may need to be built.
Karen Birck , the Secretary of the , presented the project’s latest Statement of Requirements (SoR) to the (BoS) at Monday night’s BoS meeting.
The school board’s SoR asked for a number of extensive additions and upgrades which included, but was not limited to, additional toilet facilities, more classroom space, a new roof, new siding, a new PA system, a new septic tank, and improved electrical systems. Birck said that the “cumulative impact” of all these problems is primarily “driving this project forward.”
However, the BoS expressed skepticism as whether or not these renovations were a list of what needed to be done versus a wish list of new features. Selectman Todd Hoffstatter said he wasn’t sure if the SoR was clear between “must haves and wants.” Hoffstatter said that a lot of rooms already had area for playing and storage facilities, and did not require another couple hundred of square feet, as well as additional bathrooms.
“This SOR to me clearly says ‘new school,’ and that question is still up in the air,” said Hoffsatter.
Birck stressed that the SoR does not offer suggestions on how these upgrades are to be accomplished. It would be up to other boards to determine if there were to be renovations or a new building.
Selectman Hal Clark and Hoffstatter expressed concern over the addition of several new toilets. The Board of Ed would like to see toilets be added to each kindergarten room, since kindergartners currently need to walk to another part of Miller School to use facilities.
Speaking from the audience, Cheryl Jensen-Gerner, the Principal of , said that the upgrades may not be absolutely necessary at the current time, but it would be wise to implement these changes now for the future. She used special education needs as an example, saying that special education rooms were not needed in the 60s when the school was built. She said the town should aim for the best possible results if and when it decides to upgrade the school.
“If you want to renovate, you have to ask what’s optimal. It’s not a wish list,” said Jensen-Gerner.
Birck said she would support whatever decision was ultimately made, so long as the “town wouldn’t put millions into it and [Wilton residents] still think it didn’t work.”
A main issue with building a new facility is cost. First Selectman William Brennan said that although previous , by the time the town actually went through with everything, it could be "north of $50 million.”
Macolm Whyte, Chair of the Council of Public Facilities (CoF), echoed Hoffstatter’s concern, and stated that as-is, the SoR would require an entirely new structure.
“This document can only be implemented with a new building,” said Whyte. “With all the [additions]…you will not end up with a building that fits on that site. There’s no way to add 200 feet to every classroom” without building a new facility, he said.
Whyte made clear that the CoF is merely guiding the school board in the process and would not offer opinion on how to implement the features.
“We are not going to get involved in a dispute between the Bof or BoS whether this is a renovated building or a new building,” said Whyte.
The selectmen decided that they would compile a list of questions for the Board of Ed about specific SoR concerns, to be answered in the future.