Region 14 Board of Education is Thinking About its Future

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Mitchell Elementary School was built in 1950, and hosts 369 students who live in Woodbury.

WOODBURY – Now that the Nonnewaug High School renovations are underway, the Region 14 Board of Education is wondering what’s next in the ways of school facilities and configurations.

The Board of Education is hosting a community forum from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Mitchell Elementary School to get feedback from Woodbury and Bethlehem residents. They would like to know how ready-for-the-future residents feel Mitchell, Bethlehem Elementary School, and Woodbury Middle School are, and how Region 14 needs to get there.

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The Board of Education formed a District Advisory Committee in October to address the school systems’ infrastructure. At that first meeting, it elected recently-retired Monroe Public Schools superintendent Jim Agostine as its chair.

Also at that meeting, Agostine discussed putting together a request for proposal in the future to include a facilities study, developing a 5-year physical plant plan, and a thorough study of educational provisions of the buildings. Agostine then suggested future meetings be held at each of the three school buildings to provide for a physical plant review of room utilization in each building.

When he retired in June, Agostine told Monroe Courier that he’d been proud of the improvement of school facilities during his five years at the helm.

“We need to gather good data about the buildings and the demographics, given what we know is a declining student enrollment,” Agostine said in an interview with Just Woodbury. “We need to come up with a good 10-year study.”

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Agostine said it will take months to collect all the data it needs, and expects the process to take up to one year to complete. Then the committee would need to sit down and look at the cost-effectiveness of everything.

One part that has already been collected are the current enrollment figures, which Agostine says is declining, of the Region 14 schools.

Mitchell Elementary School has 369 total students, all of which reside in Woodbury. Bethlehem Elementary School has 267 total students, with 157 of which reside in Bethlehem. Woodbury Middle School has 358 students, and just 80 reside in Bethlehem.

Nonnewaug High School has 708 students: 356 come from Woodbury, 117 come from Bethlehem, and 235 from outside the district.

Part of that data includes a look at the buildings’ infrastructures. For example, how old are the boilers? If one needed to be replaced, where would Region 14 come up with the $200,000 to replace such a big-ticket item? And are there any efficient alternatives to a boiler that can be used instead?

For that matter, are the current school buildings set up in a way in which they can take on different or additional grade levels? The committee also wants to know the condition of the roofs, how compliant the buildings are to fire code, and if they meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“There are no preconceived notions here about where we are going to end up,” Agostine said. “That’s why we are reaching out to the public to solicit ideas about this issue.”

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