Decision due Monday on replacing 2 schools

By Rachael Scarborough King
Sept. 12, 2008

GUILFORD — The Board of Education is scheduled to make a decision at a special meeting Monday on whether to renovate or replace two schools.

After years of discussion and more than 20 meetings and public forums on the topic, board members hope to come to an agreement on how to proceed with the aging facilities at Elisabeth C. Adams Middle School and Guilford High School.

Last month, a task force that has been meeting on the issue for about four years recommended that the board immediately proceed with replacing the high school and fixing immediate health and safety problems at the middle school. The group proposed building a new high school next to the existing building, which would eventually be demolished.

The task force’s initial analysis put the price of a new high school at $112 million and of addressing basic health and safety concerns at the middle school at $28 million.

In addition to the short-term work at Adams, the group is recommending that the school board form another committee to continue analyzing replacing the school or doing more extensive work there.

Board Chairman William Bloss said that an outside consultant is reviewing the figures and should report back to the group before Monday’s meeting. He noted that the price for the high school included an assumption that the town would need to acquire land for a new building, which would not be the case if it is built next to the existing school.

“I think everybody agrees, including the task force, that there is some refinement that needs to be made to that number,” Bloss said.

Whatever the school board decides, the boards of Selectmen and Finance will vote on the issue, and it will go before the public in a referendum.

In 2003, voters rejected a $50.5 million expenditure to renovate Abraham Baldwin Middle School and build a new Adams middle school.

Bloss said the board’s vote on the facilities question will serve as a recommendation for the other town agencies.

“Under state law, the Board of Education does not have the power to send anything directly to referendum. We don’t have any taxing authority, we don’t have any bonding authority,” he said. “Really, all we would do is make a recommendation to allow the town to vote and it would then be up to the other boards to decide whether they would allow a vote.”

The original portion of the high school is about 50 years old, while Adams dates from the 1930s. Both schools have air quality, size and security issues, with the offices separated from the main entrances.

Monday’s meeting will take place at 7 p.m. in the chorus room at Adams.

Bloss said he is not sure whether a consensus will emerge among board members about how to proceed.

“It’s deeply unfortunate that the town has put itself in this position, but it doesn’t mean that the remedy is to replace half of the capacity simultaneously,” he said. “It’s just a very daunting problem.”

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