Planning committee looks to school kids for ideas

FAIRFIELD — There were 13 of them gathered around a table, tossing around ideas of what they would like to see the town become, and how they would get there.

Control construction to preserve nature. School equality. Road safety with more bike lanes and sidewalks. Stop litter. Better ball fields.

It was one of the do-it-yourself workshops that’s been promoted by the Strategic Plan Committee, and in this case, it was done by fifth graders at Jennings. It might seem strange to include a bunch of 10-year-olds. But, the plan that is ultimately be developed will look out 10 years, and in 10 years these fifth graders will be in their 20’s.

Before they could get to ideas for the town, committee member Stephanie Schecter, whose son Noah was a member of the group, made sure they understood what a strategic plan is, and used the example of someone wanting to become a surgeon — what their goals would be and how they would achieve them.

“You guys are one of the biggest customers of Fairfield,” Schecter said.

They were then guided through the process by Gregg Pugliese, the Social Studies director for the school district. Members of the committee listened in to the discussions.

Chairman John Wynne was excited by the forum, and the students’ suggestion, particularly one idea “They said ‘what should we stop doing,’’ Wynne said. No one, he said, has asked that at any of the meetings they’ve had.

The fifth-grade workshop was a precursor to two town-wide “brainstorm” forums scheduled for Nov. 7, from 7:15 to 9 p.m., and Nov. 8, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Penfield Pavilion, where residents can share their ideas on what the town’s future direction.

“The welcome mat is out,” Wynne said. “This is your turn to have your voice heard>’

The committee has hired Chicago-based Houseal Lavigne Associates to help develop a strategic plan.

First Selectman Mike Tetreau said developing such a plan is incredibly important because it will drive everything from development to spending in the future. “The play will specify what our priorities truly are as a whole town and treat them accordingly as budgets are created and requests are made,’ Tetreau said.

.There will also be consultant-led workshops at the local high schools and some of the other elementary schools, and any residents interested in running their own workshops at gatherings like their book club should contact the committee at Many Representative Town Meeting members will be holding workshops in their districts, according to the committee.

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