School board chairwoman questions council on Center School

The Stratford Board of Education chairwoman says she would have liked for the town government to give the school board more input on its future.

Board Chairwoman Andrea Veilleux spoke to the Town Council at Monday’s meeting to convey her concerns about the school board not knowing much about Center School’s future. Stratford received a $1.2-million state brownfield grant to pay for remediation of asbestos and PCBs in the building and to tear it down.

“When was the [grant] application filed and why wasn’t the [school board] involved in discussing the feasibility of the grant being awarded and included in any planning necessary for the next steps?” Veilleux said in her comments during the public forum.

She also asked when the phase one and two environmental assessments were done. Town officials said that testing had been done in May 2013 and September 2014.

Veilleux said the Board of Ed has not done any long-range planning for enrollment to determine if the district might need the building for space, adding that repairing the space may cost less than reopening Honeyspot School, which was closed several years ago.

Veilleux noted that there will be costs for taxpayers in moving programs that were to be in Center School. District Chief Operating Officer Clarence Zachery said last week that Superintendent Janet Robinson did not find out that Center School could not be used because of the Phase 3 testing until about two weeks ago.

Veilleux closed her remarks saying, “The lack of communication is disrespectful to all stakeholders involved.”

Town officials hope to use the land for transit-oriented development (TOD) because of its proximity to the Metro-North Railroad station.

Mayor John Harkins, responding to a question from 3rd District Councilwoman Stephanie Philips, said the town has been in discussions with the Board of Ed about facilities, and the town’s Redevelopment Agency will be the lead in what happens with Center School. Harkins said the town’s TOD plans have been going on for five years and is “nothing new.”

Karen Kaiser and Amy Knorr in the town’s Economic Development Office have said no specific plans have been developed for the Center School site and that there will be public hearings before any plans for the site are finalized.

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Editor for the Stratford Star. Former reporter for the Darien Times.

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