At a well-attended year-end meeting this week, school officials took action on a number of measures ranging from approval of next year’s school budget to expanding space for the Venture Academy. One thing school board members didn’t do was approve the initial phase of the renovation plan. That agenda item was tabled until July after a last-minute bid last week to change the specifications for the auditorium.
“It’s been an interesting couple of weeks to say the least,” joked John Lineen in giving his report for the School Building Committee.
Last Thursday, the committee convened a special meeting to approve Phase I of the Maloney renovation. Instead, committee member and Maloney Music Director Brian Cyr objected to the current design of the auditorium because it doesn’t include plans for a new fly system.
A fly system allows the stage curtains and backdrops to be raised vertically out of view rather than being moved horizontally offstage. All modern, state-of-the-art facilities have a fly system, Cyr has said.
Cyr told the committee he didn’t realize until the day before that the current plans didn’t include the fly system, which had been discussed at several previous meetings.
On Monday, the committee met again, approving Cyr’s request for a new fly system, which will cost about $2.17 million and add up to 17 weeks to the school building schedule. The lone dissenting vote came from Committee Chair Matthew Dominello.
“This is a lot of money, and we are in hard times,” Dominello said.
The request for a fly system had been set aside when concerns arose in recent months that the dual Platt and Maloney high school renovations could cost the city as much as $40 million more than originally anticipated. Due to legislative intervention, those fears were allayed.
The school board was scheduled to approve the initial Maloney design plans tonight in advance of a meeting with state officials on June 11. That meeting has been pushed back to the end of July to give the architects time to revise the auditorium design.
The concurrent renovation of Platt High School will likely incorporate a fly system as well. The price tag for the renovations of the two schools now stands at about $220 million.
In other business Tuesday night, the school board approved expansion plans for the Venture Academy, Meriden’s alternative school program. About 3,000 square feet, or the equivalent of about three classrooms, will be added to the space at 883 Paddock Avenue. A culinary program is being incorporated into the Academy, which will enhance not only the vocational program offered at the school, but help students develop life skills as well, said Mark Hedrick, who runs the Venture program.
Board members also approved a $99,608,340 school budget for 2012-13, the same amount approved for the last three years. School officials had stated earlier in the year that another year of flat school spending could mean the closing of an elementary school. However, Meriden will receive funding through recently passed state school reform legislation. That funding will enable the school system to withstand a no-increase budget again this year while maintaining its current level of programs and activities.