Referendum funds summer project
By Jennifer LeNoble
The new roof being installed on the New London Intermediate/Middle School will be completed by Aug. 30.
Seventy percent of the non-recurring referendum in the amount of $500,000 that residents within the School District of New London approved in November 2014 is being used on the middle school roof. The district is entering the third year of the four-year referendum and has completed many projects with the funds.
“We’ve seen a lot of positives come out of the projects that have been pursued because of the referendum, and we’re grateful to our community for their support,” District Administrator Kathy Gwidt told school board members on Monday, Aug. 8.
The district has spent approximately $1.5 million on roofing repairs and projects thus far.
The new roof has a 30 year warranty with no proration rate, but the district is hoping to get more than that out of it. Minor roofing repairs have also been completed at Readfield Elementary School over the past two years.
Once the middle school roof is complete the district will move on to other sites for minor roofing repairs.
The referendum dollars has also allowed for modifications at the main entrances of all the schools for security purposes.
Modifications to the high school entrance for security enhancement took place last summer and a more secure corridor was put in place at the Intermediate/Middle School this past spring.
New London School Board member Chris Martinson commented that people have come to him with confusion about the new entrance procedure at the high school, not knowing where to enter. Martinson also questioned if new signage would be available to better direct guests to the school.
According to Joseph Marquardt, director of Business Services, new signage will be installed later this summer. It will be professional signage with a graphic that looks similar to the district’s mission statement. The sign will say “School Day Entrance” with arrows pointing in the direction of the entrance door.
“As we viewed the process last year we saw several of our guests go to the old door, see the sign and have to cut across the grass, and we don’t want people to go through that,” Marquardt said. “We knew that we had to make those changes and we’re hoping these new signs will fix that.”
Marquardt also stated the signs cost $125 each and that the cost was not that bad for something that needed to be done.
Security modifications are planned to take place this year at Parkview and Lincoln elementary schools. Both schools are in the early stages of planning for more secure entrances. The district will then review the needs at Readfield and Sugar Bush elementary schools after the other projects have been completed.
Literacy resources were the third component of the referendum and thus far initiatives have yielded positive feedback.
According to Gwidt, students are using resources that they are motivated to go to, and reading at their own level. They are not being provided one basic series where one book fits all because in a class of 25-28 students, there are likely 25-28 different reading levels.
Literacy resources have been added to K-5 classrooms over the past two years and classrooms 6-8 will receive supplemental resources this year in an effort to fully implement Reader’s and Writer’s Workshops in all K-8 classrooms.
“These literacy initiatives were high on our priority list and we are seeing a great positive in our programming because of it,” Gwidt said.
In addition to updates of the various referendum projects, Marquardt discussed future budget concerns with board members.
“We made no secret about talking about funding challenges,” Marquardt said. “We’re still a school district that has a lower revenue limit authority and that will continue to challenge us as we continue to meet the needs of our students. It’s very important for us to continue to discuss what this means moving forward.”
The following are budgeting options Marquardt discussed in terms of the district moving forward: going to a referendum again, consider recurring or nonrecurring referendum, fund projects in a different way, go back to capital leases if funding is not available or explore other ways where the district is not asking voters for help.
“There are a lot of things to look at as we continue to move on with our projects,” Marquardt said. “It’s important to have these discussions earlier rather than later so our community is aware of our needs, and really get the valuable input from our constituents so that it provides clear and effective direction for the future sustainability of our district.”
New London School Board President Kim Schroeder said that she liked Marquardt’s foresight on trying to see what the district needs to do for the future and was pleased that budget discussions are being talked about earlier.
“I truly appreciate this so we can start having these discussions now and not ‘oh we need to do this and do it right now,’” Schroeder said. “I like that this is early and years ahead of time.”
Marquardt said that more budget information will be discussed at the budget hearing in September and at the district’s mid-year retreat in February.
A few years ago the school district changed pick-up and drop-off procedures at the Intermediate/Middle School for safety reasons. The district feels confident with those changes and is now looking at safety procedures at Parkview Elementary School along Werner-Allen Boulevard.
“Our main goal is to provide safety for students,” Marquardt said. “We all know how congested this area is before and after school. Not only do we have traffic from students and parents, but residents who live in that area as well.”
The district had been working with the city of New London, the Director of Public Works Jeff Bodoh, and Chief of Police Jeff Schlueter, to see what changes can be made to make this area safer for students, parents, and staff.
The changes discussed were the angled parking north and south of the awning that is in front of the school, the length of the crosswalk area and length of the area where there is no parking, and painting crosswalk that goes across both sides of Werner-Allen.
Recently, the city painted a crosswalk that extends across both north and south bound lanes of Werner-Allen. According to Marquardt, the painting was done at no cost to the district. The city was already fixing the crosswalk area due to the street construction that took place over the summer.
In addition to the crosswalk there will be limited angled parking for pick-up and drop-off in front of the building near the awning cover. These areas will be marked off to indicate where the changes will occur.
Parkview Elementary School Principal Joe Green will be informing parents of these changes through various forms of communication such as back to school mailings and during registration. The New London Police Department will also aid with communication through Facebook.
As the school year begins, the district will monitor these changes to ensure they are practical and safer for everyone. According to Marquardt, if this becomes a permanent solution the district will explore making further infrastructure changes in the future.
“We are going to try and see how this initial phase begins,” Marquardt said. “Then from there we’ll determine if it was the right solution, and then see what challenges are going to come in place.”