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Expansions Planned for Five Schools

Updated: Monday, Nov. 29, 2010.

Five Norwalk elementary schools may be expanded to address increasing enrollment and overcrowding issues. The Board of Education's $28 million capital budget request for 2011-12 includes construction at Naramake, Cranbury, Rowayton, Columbus and Jefferson elementary schools and air conditioning at all elementary schools.

Expected for a school board vote next week, the five-year capital request will be passed on to the city's Finance Department in early December.

The school board based its capital request on an elementary school facilities study by Partners for Architecture , available on the district's homepage . In July, the firm recommended expansion at the five schools based on current space usage and enrollment projections. The middle schools and high schools have adequate capacity.

"We recognized that enrollment was going up in some elementary schools," said Mark Gorian, director of NPS facilities, who said no building work has been done in the last four to five years. There are four portables at Rowayton, a portable at Naramake and an eight-classroom portable at Jefferson Elementary to handle overflow.

Gorian said schools also need more space for the preschools housed in the elementary schools, new computer labs and classrooms for special needs students and English language learners. More elementary schools are running year-round and longer days, he said, explaining the need for air conditioning.

"We are trying to bring equity to all of the school," Gorian said. "There should be dedicated space at all the schools for the same services like art and music. At some schools, students have art brought into their classrooms on a cart and no dedicated space."

The capital request spans five years. Work at Naramake, Rowayton and Cranbury is scheduled to start next year because the "need is most immediate," Gorian said. Jefferson and Columbus are scheduled for the following year. The capital also includes funds for asphalt and concrete for improved sidewalks and driveways, stage rigging systems and curtains, and folding gym doors. Capital projects at schools are financed and managed by the city.

Update:  BOE Chair Jack Chiaramonte stressed that the capital request, even if it passed by the school board, is "preliminary".  "It still has to pass through some hoops on the cityside," he said.  In addition, Chiaramonte added that because of the the state's fiscal problems and deficit, the state may not be offering its usual refund to help play for school capital improvement projects.

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