The Board of Selectmen unanimously approved municipal improvement (MI) status for the conversion of the Bendheim Western Greenwich Civic Center into the temporary home for displaced Glenville School students, moving the project a step.
By granting the MI, which is for projects that involve redesigning a town property, the project can now go before the Planning and Zoning Commission. The commission will have 90 days to consider the project and, if it isn’t brought before the commission, it will be automatically approved. The town owns the civic center and if the project approvals are granted by town board, ownership will be temporarily transferred to the school board until the project is completed, at which time ownership will be transferred back to the town.
First Selectman Peter Tesei, a longtime supporter of renovating the civic center, which was finally completed last year, called the situation with the Glenville students “an emergency.” The students had been scheduled to move into modular classrooms so the renovation of their building, which has been called educationally unsound by district officials, could begin, but the discovery of mold in late February put that plan into chaos.
“When we have a population of school students that do not have a permanent facility to be educated in, I believe the town is in an emergency situation,” Mr. Tesei said. “Through my office I’ve worked diligently with the Board of Education to avail all resources the town has to in its inventory and the simple fact is that there is only one building that could potentially serve the partial needs of a school.”
Mr. Tesei has worked with several town departments, particularly land use agencies, to assess what had to be done to make the civic center into a viable option. He added that granting the MI status is “only one step in a long process” and plans still have to be developed and approved.
Renovation on Glenville School’s building is scheduled to begin this July and, if approved, the civic center would be the home for the displaced students for an anticipated 18 months to two years. However, the renovation could be delayed if its determined the construction on the new Hamilton Avenue School won’t be complete before the start of school on Aug. 27.
Board of Education Chairwoman Nancy Weissler told the selectmen that if that happened, a possible solution would be to put the Hamilton Avenue students into the civic center and then move in the Glenville students once the new school was ready. Ms. Weissler stressed several times, though, that the option was “very unlikely” because the board expects the Hamilton Avenue construction would be complete.
Remediating the modulars for the Glenville students remains an option. The school board is set to hold a work session on the options tomorrow at 3 p.m. at the Havemeyer Building. A vote on an option is expected at the board’s April 24 meeting.
Mr. Tesei asked for and received assurances from Ms. Weissler and Assistant Superintendent of Schools Susan Wallerstein that the board did not view the civic center as permanent swing space for the district that could be used whenever needed.....
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