City Council votes to reconsider decision to only renovate deteriorating building
New London - The City Council voted unanimously Monday to reconsider a decision made by the same body last year to renovate New London High School to meet state and federal requirements.
Instead, the council will examine whether to renovate the current building as new, demolish and build a new high school or renovate to meet the mandated requirements, which include complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
City councilors discussed the three options during a presentation Monday by school officials and architecture firm representatives.
If the council ultimately votes to build a new school, which is estimated at $83.8 million, the city plans to take out a 20-year bond to pay for it. With a 67.7 percent reimbursement from the state, the annual average cost to a city taxpayer would be about 7 cents a day, or $23.65 a year for 20 years.
Even though no final decision was made Monday, one thing was clear: New London has not invested in maintenance, and because of that, its high school could lose its accreditation.
"New London High School is on warning, two steps short of losing accreditation," Superintendent of Schools Nicholas A. Fischer said. "And if we lose accreditation, property values will go down and taxes will go up."
The high school has failed, since 1988, to address key building issues and meet ADA requirements, according to the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, which provides accreditation services. If the school continues not to meet ADA requirements, it is at risk of losing all the federal grants it receives, Assistant Superintendent Christine Carver said.
Boiler problems, drafty windows, broken water fountains, uncontrolled classroom temperatures, improper use of space and broken or missing classroom clocks are just some of the issues high school Principal William "Tommy" Thompson listed as reasons why the school's accreditation is at risk.
"The building continues to deteriorate as major repairs are put on hold. It's never been a good time (to build) since 1988," he said. "We know this is difficult, but it's time to act and take a stance and address the sub-par facilities that currently exist at New London High School."
In August, the School Building and Maintenance Committee recommended that the city build a new high school to comply with ADA.
Friar Associates of Farmington was paid $37,500 last year to identify what needed to be done to bring the high school into ADA compliance. In August 2010, the state issued a 15-page report that listed all noncompliance problems at the school.
Michael Sorano, of Friar Associates, said it could cost around $19 million to address the NEASC and ADA issues.
Councilor John Maynard expressed his frustration at the lack of upkeep in the school.
"We wait till everything goes to hell and then we go into a uproar when something needs to be fixed," he said. "I'm baffled. The bottom line is we've got to start thinking about the kids. When you don't sew up a cut, it will open back up again. We've got to stop the bleeding."