Published January 16. 2013 4:00AM Updated January 16. 2013 11:59PM
Ledyard - In a move to address concerns brought to a head at a school security presentation last week, Superintendent Mike Graner will pitch a middle school construction project at tonight's Board of Education meeting that would address a major security issue at Ledyard Middle School.
The school, which was built in the early 1970s, contains clustered, open classrooms with no interior walls. This layout precludes a secure lockdown procedure and gives an intruder access to about 80 percent of the student body with no walls or doors in the way, Graner said.
While a renovation plan that has been in the works for the past year would include constructing traditional four-walled classrooms in the clusters' place, that plan still needs to be finalized and then sent to a referendum for taxpayer approval. From there, it could take a year for legislative approval and three or four more to complete.
But at last week's meeting, it became clear that parents are concerned with what Graner called "a huge security flaw," which Graner has decided to address with a stopgap measure. The plan would close off the five classroom clusters with walls and doors, which would fill in gaps between the lines of lockers that divide the clusters along the hallway.
Sam Kilpatrick, director of maintenance for the school system, said he and architect Jim Lawler - who has been working on the long-term renovation options for the middle school - each came up with a cost estimate of around $25,000 for the project. Depending on how soon materials can be ordered and delivered, Kilpatrick said, construction could be completed before students' spring vacation in April with work on weekends and in evenings.
The materials and hardware would be reused in the larger renovation, if it is approved.
Kilpatrick said Lawler is already drawing design plans to submit to him by the end of the week, which he will submit to the town building official. The plan would then pass through the school board's facilities and finance committees before going to the whole board for approval. Graner said it will also need the approval of the Town Council in order to pay for the construction with the school board's capital projects fund.
Mike France, chairman of the Town Council's Finance Committee, said the project and its ballpark price tag are feasible, and that he will work to bring the proposal to the council quickly.
Graner and Kilpatrick said it was Lawler who suggested taking a closer look at this section of the school immediately following the meeting last week.
"I don't know who actually came up with the idea, but clearly the whole dialogue got people thinking," Graner said.
"It's not perfect," he added. "But it is a very, very significant step in the right direction towards building security."