On Friday, January 10, Orange Supt. Lynn McMullin sent the following to Turkey Hill and Race Brook School parents:
Dear Turkey Hill and Race Brook Communities,
We are so grateful to you for all of the thoughtful and warm-hearted things you have done to lessen the impact of this serious issue for Peck. Classrooms have done special activities together and celebrated their guests. PTO’s have provided food and resources. Teachers have collaborated and co-taught. This truly has been a community at its best.
I have never meant to isolate you from the communications; and I wish there was something more definitive I could tell you about our time frame. All I can say is that Peck will have a new home as soon as we possibly can achieve it. We are not dragging our heels.
I have written a letter to Peck families describing their relocation below. I hope you will read it and know that while it is written specifically to answer their questions, I have not forgotten about you. We worked hard to find a solution which did not compromise your gyms, labs, Specials, and we are confident we have found it.
My sincere thanks for all you have done. Enjoy your families this weekend,
Dear Peck Place Community,
I’m happy to update you about the latest developments for the Peck Place school building and especially our plans for your children.
Congratulations! Your children have all been accepted to Yale!
At a second emergency Board of Education meeting last evening, the Board authorized Peck’s move into a clean, new space at the Yale West Campus in Orange. (Below, I will explain the specific rationale for this decision.) The move will happen as soon as possible, but there are a few hurdles we still need to overcome. Contractual details for the use of the space need to be finalized, and Yale needs to remove all of the office-style cubicles and help us reconfigure the space into classrooms. Then, we will need to move Peck’s furniture, records, equipment (such as copiers and office computers), and supplies over.
We are moving as rapidly as we possibly can, but there are a lot of details that need to be worked out — from thinking through the protocols for loading and unloading buses — to how the teachers and kids will move throughout building (marking the exits, bathrooms, etc.) — to how we can accommodate for students with special needs — to figuring out lunch, recess, and specials schedules.
This is very good news, however! The Peck teachers will soon be with their own students, and the Peck community will all be in one place very soon. The timeline is this: as soon as we possibly can. I ask that you trust Eric, his office staff and teachers, and his colleagues (Colleen Murray, Steve Bergin, Kai Byrd, and Mike Gray) to figure out all of the logistics for this move. Doing it once and meticulously is our primary concern. At some point next week, we may even ask for volunteers to help with the relocation. In addition, Eric will be reaching out to the PTO for support with some needs.
1. Friday, January 10th 9:30 a.m.: Eric and others are walking the very large space to map out the rearrangement of partitions we need to turn the building into a school. Matt Bruder, our Tech Admin, is there as well to plan for technology access.
2. Friday, January 10th 11:00a.m.: Meeting with News 12.
3. Friday, January 10th 2:00 p.m.: The Peck teachers are being released from Race Brook and Turkey Hill and will meet Eric at the Yale West Campus building to help Eric with the lay-out and logistics and to become acclimated with the space.
4. Monday, January 13th: 6:00 p.m.: there will be a special meeting for parents upstairs at MLT. This will be a question and answer session. If you know your questions now, or think of them over the weekend, please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Eric is going ‘off-the-grid’ for a short while, so that he can begin the renovation of the space. You will not receive an answer to your email, but your question will be answered on Monday night and then again in the Q’s and A’s which will be emailed and posted to our webpage.
5. Monday, January 13th: 7:30 p.m.: Regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting.
6. An Open House at the Yale West Haven building: TBA
7. An Orientation for the kids: TBA
The Rationale for the Yale West Campus Decision:
Wednesday and Thursday as we began to look for new spaces, we made many phone calls. We explored suggestions about the spaces in local congregations, empty retail space on the Post Road, closed schools in other districts, and so on. (Many people immediately thought of Sandy Hook’s move into another closed school, but keep in mind that move took unlimited resources and over three weeks to accomplish.) We wanted something that would work for us sooner, rather than later, because the current situation we have, while working and even somewhat fun, is going to get ‘old’ really quickly.
Some places we called told us they couldn’t accommodate us for various reasons. We have to respect that. Other places were extremely open and helpful and invited us to come right in to look at what they could offer us.
These are the criteria we considered as we went from site to site:
Location in or very near Orange
Large enough to house all of Peck (or two spaces that could house at least ½. This was somewhat important to limit the number of places parents might need to pick-up their children around town.
Fitted with fire alarms, phone service, and other communication and safety features
Clean, safe, and secure (not needing extensive or time-consuming renovation)
Bus drop-off and pick-up that was safe and parent access, with parking
Spaces for Special Education, school psychologist, and Tier I and II support services
Playground and space for 21st Century
Kitchen and cafeteria
You’ll be wondering why we didn’t choose one or another site, so I will provide some examples. As I said, the people in all of the spaces we saw were truly open and willing to help us in any way possible. We looked at the classroom spaces in the Greek Orthodox Church on Race Brook.
The space was light and bright and had a kitchen and cafeteria space, but the classrooms were too small for our students and teachers to set-up shop. We couldn’t envision 150 students (½ of our Peck kids) in the space.
We also looked at the Congregational Church across the street from the MLT. There the four or possibly five classrooms were larger, but the bathrooms were unisex, on a different floor, and there was no Internet service which would make daily communications difficult.
One final example is our trip to the Hubble property. Again, wonderful people, but the building they could offer us was under construction in the lobby and on the first floor, and the rooms available were former yoga studios in the basement and lined floor-to-ceiling with mirrors.
The road was too narrow to envision two buses safely passing each other on the way in and out.
We did choose carefully; and ultimately we decided on the Yale West Haven Campus because it met most of our criteria. We can house the entire school, thereby reuniting Eric, the teachers, and students.
The drop-off and pick-up is perfect (I’m sure the Orange Police will assist with the intersection.) The building is incredibly secure, and we can set up our security desk in the entrance. We’ll have computer lab set-ups, and we can bring the laptop carts, the copiers, our office equipment, and so on.
There are many push-out spaces for tutoring and Special Education. The draw-backs are important, but we can overcome them:
1. There is no gym or playground, so we will need to ‘manufacture’ exercise space within the building. There are beautiful walking trails outside.
2. There is no kitchen. There are too many federal regulations for me to go into here, but this won’t be a simple solution. We can have milk delivered to refrigerators in the building. We can deliver cold, boxed lunches to our free-and-reduced students and provide extras every day for kids who forget their lunches. But we may need to ask students and staff pack lunches and then supplement with deliveries on special days. Please be patient while we try to work this out. We can create a cafeteria space, so kids don’t eat at their desks, but there is no kitchen.
3. There is no intercom. However, we will install a portable solution and have already started working on it.
About the Peck Facility:
I will send another letter with more specific details, but the facility will be completely closed and off-limits within a day or two. We are working on the remediation of Peck very quickly, but as safely as possible.
There is a State licensed hygienist assigned to us. An abatement means we are sealing off the building completely, and an abatement contractor with the correct licensing will be removing all of the floor tiles and the mastic which adheres them to the subflooring. (Remember the mastic is the issue, not the tiles).
I will soon send out the official notice, but please understand no one under the age of 18 is allowed on the Peck Place property. If you see our custodians, Mike Luzzi, Matt Bruder, Eric, me, or our teachers coming and going over the next few days, it is only because the actual abatement has not begun and we are removing what we need for the new location.
When the kids return from Yale New Haven, they will return to a new, brighter, and cleaner environment!
Have a good weekend with your family.
Lynn K. McMullin