Board of Education approve Mill Hill project at ‘504’ size
FAIRFIELD — Michelle DeMartino and her husband moved to Fairfield in 2007 with their oldest child, then a baby.
They chose a neighborhood in close proximity to Mill Hill School because of the school’s impressive reputation and apparently stellar facilities, including its Little League baseball field and playground..
But many years later, when her son finally entered Mill Hill, where five portable classroom units has subsequently been added to address the school’s enrollment, he was assigned to a class in one of the relocatable units, which was nicknamed “Siberia” by other students.
“The kids see it as a prison,” DeMartino said, of the portable units, at the Tuesday night meeting of the Board of Education, at which the board unanimously approved educational specifications for renovation projects at Mill Hill and Roger Sherman elementary schools.
The project, as laid out in the education specifications, would result in the removal of the five portable units currently at the school and expand the existing building to 504 capacity, or 24 classrooms with an average class size of 21 students.
The Board of Education’s vote on the education specifications, which they originally believed they had until June to discuss, was pushed up after the Board of Selectmen requested more information on the project, and the Sherman Hill School renovation, before moving forward on either.
In response, the Board of Education called a special meeting Feb. 8 to begin the discussion of the specifications. The approval of the draft documents, which can be amended in the coming years before building begins, will allow the Board of Selectmen to form a building committee and begin a multi-year process to see the renovations through.
The Roger Sherman project, which would see the third and final renovation and addition to the building, pass to the boards of Selectmen and Finance and the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) before approval, and would likely wrap between April 2019 and August 2020.
The Mill Hill project would need the same Town Hall approvals, has an estimated finish date between January 2020 and August 2021.
Several parents in addition to DeMartino voiced concern over the conditions of the portable classroom, which some members of the board echoed.
“It is totally unacceptable for any student to be in a portable,” said board member Christine Vitale.
Several board members also expressed concern at having had to vote on the education specifications for Mill Hill without being provided any significant detail on the project and without much time to debate a decision that could have major implications for redistricting.
Chairman Philip Dwyer, however, assured board members that the night’s vote was not final, and that the board could request changes as the project progresses.
“Between our meeting date and the date that a building committee actually has its first meeting, there’s going to be enough time for us to be able to address and get a revision back if the board is of a mind to,” said Dwyer.