BRISTOL - The Board of Education has hired DRA Inc. to conduct a feasibility study of the district’s school buildings.
Chris Wilson, school board chairman, said the study is something the district does on a semi-regular basis. He said the last one was done about 10 years ago in preparation for the district gearing up for a major project that included building West Bristol and Greene-Hills K-8 schools, which opened in 2012, and closing four antiquated schools the same year. Bingham Elementary School had closed in 2010 as recommended in the previous feasibility study.
However, Wilson doesn’t anticipate such major changes as a result of the current study, which will look at demographic changes, birth rates, and housing pattern changes in the city. The study is expected to be finished this summer, at a cost of just under $60,000.
“I know people think we’ve lost students, but we really haven’t lost many students. Our enrollment is really pretty flat. Some students have gone to magnet schools (outside the district), because the arts or science thalamic curriculum is appealing to a lot of parents and students, but we’re still financially responsible for them,” he said.
“I don’t anticipate any big changes but I don’t know what the budget situation is either,” he said. “There is uncertainty about the budget, both at the state and the city level, and that’s why it’s been such a difficult budget season. We really just don’t know where we’re at, so it’s hard to plan and build budgets on that basis.”
Wilson said there are four schools listed for renovation in the city’s 10-year capital improvement plan, so the study will help decide which are most critical to be renovated first.
It will also look at whether the district should move from the current model of having some students attend separate elementary and middle schools and some attend K-8 schools to just having K-8 schools.
DRA, also known as Drummey Rosane Anderson Inc., is an architectural firm based in South Windsor. Karen Hintz, chair of the board’s Operations Committee, said the committee chose DRA because the firm performed the previous feasibility study and also designed West Bristol.
Deputy Superintendent Susan Moreau told a joint meeting of the City Council and Board of Finance recently that DRA was the only bidder that came under the $60,000 the Board of Finance had allocated.
“We know DRA. We worked with them to build West Bristol School and to do a feasibility study prior to that and we feel extremely comfortable with the work that they do,” she said.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.