NORWALK, Conn. — When State Sen. Bob Duff and Mayor Harry Rilling unveiled their “Fix It First" proposal for modernizing Norwalk’s public schools at a press conference Monday morning, there was one group in the city that was taken by surprise.
The Norwalk Board of Education — as well as Superintendent Steven J. Adamowski said they were "surprised and disconcerted."
The “Fix It First" proposal calls for improving and modernizing all of the existing school buildings in the Norwalk School District — before any new schools are built to deal with the district's growing enrollment of students.
The following statement was released Monday evening by the Board of Education in response to the press conference :
"Members of the Board of Education and the Superintendent were surprised and disconcerted by the press conference this morning, during which Mayor Rilling and Senator Duff outlined an alternative facilities plan for Norwalk Public Schools.
"Neither the Mayor nor Senator Duff had any prior communication with the Board or Dr. Adamowski prior to what is perceived to be a 'political' event. There are many questions regarding the outlined plan, which appears to be based in part on a now-outdated document from 2012. The proposal does not appear to conform to the updated Facilities Master Plan Study completed last year, or the Board of Education’s Strategic Operating Plan.
"It does not meet current building standards, account for swing space during construction or provide enough seats for Norwalk growing enrollment of school children. It is doubtful that the majority of the Board could approve such a plan, which may not be practical, factually accurate and has had no community input. The Board will have no further comment on the alternative plan until Mayor Rilling has the opportunity to meet with Board members and share his ideas."
The plan from Duff and Rilling was described as an alternative to the one presented by the Norwalk Board of Education last month that outlines a school construction plan.
"We believe that we need to be fixing our schools first and fixing our schools now -- not only Jefferson School but all of our schools in the entire school district," Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk/Darien) told the crowd at a press conference.
Some elements of the Fix It First proposal include:
- Completing all work simultaneously in three years by spending $100 million, with another 32.5 percent reimbursement from the State of Connecticut;
- Constructing an addition to Jefferson Elementary School to remove portables previously scheduled for 2015;
- Building a one-story addition at Cranbury School that was previously scheduled for 2016;
- Putting on a two-story addition at Columbus Magnet School, scheduled for 2017; and
- Adding major repairs at Norwalk High School and minor repairs at Brien McMahon to the plan.
“Fix It First addresses all of the schools in our school system currently," Duff said.
Duff used Jefferson Elementary School as an example. “Jefferson School has the most overcrowding in the City of Norwalk, and the fact is that with the current BOE plan, this school will not be addressed until about seven years from now," he said. That is too long to wait, Duff said.
"The Board of Education is asking us to spend a quarter of a billion dollars from the taxpayers of the city and the taxpayers of the state," Duff said. "We feel we can spend a $100 million plus the state reimbursement on top of that to not only fix schools like Jefferson, but Cranbury, Fox Run, Columbus, Norwalk High School and other schools all around the City of Norwalk."
He stressed the importance of not waiting to fix problems with the school buildings. "The parents who are sitting there waiting for their schools to be fixed will be waiting for over a decade and (by then), many parents, like myself, will be long gone out of the school system.”