Council votes NO to new high school at town park

STRATFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – Superintendent Janet Robinson says the option to build a new Stratford High School on the grounds of a town park is now “off the table” after the Town Council Monday unanimously rejected the school board’s recommendation.

On Friday, the Board of Education voted 4-2 in favor of the recommendation to build a new Stratford High School. The other option called for renovating the existing school building, which, Robinson said, “is not only old but landlocked and the classrooms are too small for current standards.”

Robinson said Saturday that the option to build on the 34-acre Longbrook Park – which features Penders Field, the high school’s football field – was “just recently brought up.” She said there aren’t many properties in town that meet the space requirements for a new high school.

But the recommendation was met with disdain by the residents who attended Friday’s hastily called special meeting. And on Saturday, a large group gathered at the park.

According to the Stratford Star:

An estimated 100 residents went to Longbrook Park on April 13 to protest the Board of Ed’s recommendation. Councilmen and various Town officials met with the residents at Longbrook to tell them they would vote down the idea of a school there. No Board of Education members attended the protest.

Before the meeting, opposition grew online with the creation of a petition on moveon.org, which read, in part:

I firmly believe this area should stay preserved as it is for the local enjoyment of the children to play in and adults to walk and enjoy the beauty ! Please review the decision of the Board of Education suggestion of Longbrook park and find another area such as the field across from Stratford High on king street (and the old Stratford High school area as the new field once The school is torn down) or the old Avco area.

Superintendent Robinson said the town has asked the Board of Education to determine which option – building a new school or renovating the current one – is the better choice for the district.

The two school board members who opposed the new school option cited “costs and reimbursement” as the main deterrents, according to meeting minutes.

Bob Chaloux, one of the four who voted in favor of a new school, said the option was in the best interest of students. Renovating the existing school would arguably require students to be moved around.

What’s next is not clear but the clock is ticking. State deadlines for grants to help pay for any new construction or renovation are fast approaching, Robinson said.

The superintendent said that a couple years ago the town approved a $56 million renovation for Stratford High School “but I have not seen any movement on that project.”