Members of the Orange Board of Selectmen discuss the Peck Place school situation.
There was a special meeting of the Board of Selectmen Tuesday at 5 p.m. for the purpose of going over the plans to move Peck Place School students to the Yale West Campus.
By now most residents know that Peck Place Elementary School sustained a good amount of damage after water pipes burst during a cold snap. Much of the flood damage already has been repaired and the students were split up between Turkey Hill and Race Brook schools.
Several parents have told Orange Live that the children are doing well and enjoying the new experience.
The Orange Board of Education reached out to several locations around town, then Yale offered space. But what parents don’t know is that Bruce Alexander Vice President of Yale was not happy with the premature release of information about it and actions that already had been taken.
On Monday, Jan. 13, Orange schools finance director Kevin McNabola told First Selectman Jim Zeoli that he had to call Alexander, who refused to go forward with the agreement with the BOE and would only sign the agreement if it was between the First Selectman and Yale — end of story.
Zeoli and Alexander discussed the specifics of the agreement and prior to Monday’s special Peck Place meeting at Mary L. Tracy, it was understood that Yale has a use for the building in April and the town of Orange can only use it until Monday, March 31.
The BOE still started moving items over to Yale on Tuesday on Zeoli’s word that the town would abide by Yale’s requirements.
The BOE is aware of the details of the agreement and Zeoli spoke to McNabola, making it known that they still have time to back out of Yale and keep the kids in the two other elementary schools if they so choose.
Zeoli said the town is looking at a 10-week window to have Peck Place School back up and running. Once the insurance damage work is done, it’s then up to the town to complete the work.
“We believe that can be done in 7.5 weeks and give the school back to the Board of Education so they can welcome the children back on March 24,” Zeoli said. “The agreement covers the Yale plan through March 31.”
John Carangelo said if the abatement doesn’t get done in time the town faces a $30,000 penalty, which he feels is excessive. All alternative spaces are a “no-go” for a variety of reasons.
He’s concerned about the March 31 date and Yale’s penalty provision. He asked, “What do we have as a contingency?”
Zeoli answered, ” At the Board of Education meeting last night, the Superintendent stated clearly that there is no contingency plan. The building has to be ready to accept students.”
Town Attorney Vincent Marino said he just received a copy of the agreement 30 minutes prior to this special meeting. He called Yale’s attorney after he toured Peck Place with BOE Chairman Bill Kraut and Facilities Director Mike Luzzi, but he hadn’t heard back from him yet.
Marino said there is no rental fee for the Yale space. “We need to get the kids back into a stable learning environment,” he said.
Marino said he was hoping that the contract would be negotiable so the children could at least get through the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) period which may extend into the first week of April.
“What will we do if this falls through? There are special needs kids and after school children who need to be considered,” Carangelo said.
• McNabola said with all the kids at other schools there are 28 kids per classroom instead of 19.
• The Yale space is 51,000 square feet whereas Peck is 54,000 square feet.
• Insurance would pay for rental space and moving costs — close to $100,000
Zeoli said, “Ceilings already have been replaced and floors in worst flooded rooms replaced. The selectmen will have 1-2 more special meetings and look at the state bid list and waive the town bid process to move things along quickly.”
The Board of Finance will be brought in for some decisions, McNabola will work with BOS to get things done. The board will make recommendations for the BOF when they have enough information to share with them.
• The town will line up with removal vendor, installation vendor etc for everything that is needed.
• The work at Peck Place includes, getting the old floors out, new floors in and painting. All have to be done and Zeoli believes it can be done in a timely fashion.
A motion was made to go into an agreement with Yale and the town to expedite the agreement and get the kids over there —- Unanimously approved.
Zeoli said the situation is not as daunting as portrayed. The photos that are circulated were taken the day of the flooding, but everything already looks different.
The BOE is in charge of the children, programming, education and relocation, health, safety and welfare.
“The town and BOE, in a joint venture would get the school straightened out,” Zeoli said. “The school is not that old and not in bad shape. I’ve heard the rumblings out there that the school has been neglected. That is NOT true. A frozen water pipe is NOT a neglect of maintenance.”
Zeoli told Orange Live that the most important thing to him regarding this situation is the stability and support of the education process for the kids. “I can only assume that the BOE is going to take hold of that and monitor it and provide whatever is required by the state Board of Education,” he said. “That’s my biggest concern is that there’s continuity in the kids learning.”
“My next step is making sure this gets done. it was put on me this morning,” he said. “I work well with Scott Allen and Kevin McNabola, they are both hard workers and with their help this job will get done.”
Zeoli and other selectmen will meet with Insurance Company reps on Wednesday morning to discuss the coverage to take care of this situation. (On Wednesday, Zeoli said the insurance meeting went well.)