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School Board Withdrawals Alternative High School Application



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School Board Withdrawals Alternative High School Application

By Larissa Lytwyn

The Board of Education decided in a unanimous vote November 3 to withdraw a recently refiled application to the Planning and Zoning (P&Z) commission to lease 3,000 feet of a 7,500-square-foot space for the district’s alternative high school program in a newly constructed building at 7 Berkshire Road.

Currently, the building is partially occupied by Little Explores, LLC, a private daycare program.

The commission had rejected the school board’s initial request because the new building was strictly limited to commercial use under the prevailing zoning rules.

To address such concerns, the board’s new application included an additional zoning stipulation that would in essence apply exclusively to the alternative high school.

According to Superintendent of Schools Evan Pitkoff, the building’s owner had said that the building’s increased number of occupants would require an expanded septic system.

In addition, Dr Pitkoff reported that the owner was preparing to pave the building’s lot area before the weather turned much colder. The owner had said that the November 18 date of the new P&Z application review was too late into the cold-weather season to wait for the paving to be done.

“So, if we got the lease approved, by the time we would be ready to expand the septic system, the owner would have to tear up the paving, expand the septic system, then seal it back up,” explained Dr Pitkoff.

Moreover, the owner had said that the expansion would be at the cost of the Board of Education.

Vice Chair Lisa Schwartz asked why Little Explorers was not required, as a co-occupant, to absorb some of the septic expansion cost.

Dr Pitkoff explained that their contract was already done and thus the company was under no obligation to financially support the project.

The estimated cost of the septic expansion would be approximately $15,000.

“Considering this new information regarding the septic system,” said Dr Pitkoff, “I am not entirely confident that we should continue [going forward] with the application.”

Board Secretary Andy Buzzi agreed. “After all, we don’t want to waste [P&Z] time for something we might not be able to negotiate to our liking,” he said.

Dr Pitkoff assured that he would thoroughly explain the septic situation to P&Z members as reasoning for the board’s seemingly sudden withdrawal.

“I think they deserve that,” said board member Paul Mangiafico.

Board member Tom Gissen agreed, adding that the withdrawal was not irreversible. “We just need to look at all our options,” he said. “We could possibly file this application again at a further date.”

The alternative high school program is currently housed in the basement of Newtown Middle School.

It was originally in Canaan House at Fairfield Hills. The Canaan House space was destroyed in a boiler explosion last winter, prompting the program’s relocation.

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