Slowly But Surely, Attention Turning To Future Of Sandy Hook School

Knowing that Sandy Hook School students and staff will be welcome and secure at Monroe’s Chalk Hill School facility until at least June of 2014, First Selectman Pat Llodra and a number of other officials at the local, state and federal level are beginning the long process of focusing on how, when and where students and staff will eventually return home to Newtown.

To that end, Mrs Llodra has been working to form a coalition of 28 elected officials drawn from the Boards of Selectmen, Education, Finance and the Legislative Council who will gather and meet to receive information.

In a statement received for publication in today’s edition of The Bee, Mrs Llodra explained that the group will then carefully review every option for locating, building and rebuilding Sandy Hook School.

“Ultimately, these elected representatives will make recommendations based on an analysis of these options in the context of the community voice, and understanding of the greater good, including short and long-term district education goals and vision for the community,” Mrs Llodra writes.

She said the government meetings will be public, carefully structured, and led by facilitators experienced in leading groups in complex decision-making.

A planning committee consisting of Mrs Llodra, finance board Chairman John Kortze, school board Vice-Chair Laura Roche and council representatives Mary Ann Jacob, Kathryn Fetchick and Dr Neil Chaudhary will select the facilitators, schedule meetings, and coordinate logistics for gatherings.

Another committee headed up by Land Use Agency officials George Benson and Rob Sibley is charged with providing all the research for the community and full committee to consider.

Lending expertise to that research panel is Phil Clark of Claris Construction, Chris Smith, Mike DiNallo and Kevin King of Turner Construction, BL Companies, an engineering firm and its representatives John Mancini and Jim Fielding; traffic engineer Mike Galante; and Todd Perry of Cherry Hill Construction.

Mrs Llodra said part of this group’s charge is to identify and complete an analysis of every public and private parcel in the vicinity of Sandy Hook School that might be used for a possible new school facility.

“They will provide us with complete site documentation from acreage to accessible utilities, as well as the proximity to wetlands and all other related considerations,” Mrs Llodra said. “Every possible site has to be fully explored.”

This group is already working and meeting twice weekly, she added. In the end, Mrs Llodra is counting on the group to also provide modeling of a possible future Sandy Hook School facility down to anticipated square footage and layout corresponding to that of the now vacant school building.

Mrs Llodra has announced that she hopes to have much of the review process complete by May 1. 

“This is going to be difficult work - full of challenges, emotion, and personal passions,” she writes. “I ask all to be patient with us in this process. We are committed to serving you and will always do our best, but this is new territory for all of us.”

The first selectman expects the 28 members of the combined boards and council will come to these decision-making sessions having had many opportunities to hear and feel the “voices of the community,” particularly of those for whom the events of December 14 were so significant and which bear most directly on the school facility decision. 

“We are gathering input from many constituencies: the general public; Sandy Hook School parents; parents of the students who survived; parents of victims; and Sandy Hook teachers and staff,” she writes. “Each of these input sessions are held multiple times with groups varying in size from many members to a single participant.”

While the initial input is hoped to be complete by the first week of March, Mrs Llodra said every Newtown person should know that each committee member remains open to comments and suggestions throughout the entire review process.

“Emails, calls, and general correspondence are welcome at all times,” she said. “Once we have a plan for moving forward, we will reconvene with our state and federal partners to determine funding sources. I continue to be confident that these partners will do every thing possible to help us implement our plan for the Sandy Hook School facility.” 

Mrs Llodra said once the community has a plan and funding secured, the project will follow the typical school construction process.

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