FARMINGTON – Residents overwhelmingly expressed their enthusiasm for keeping Mallett School on the same campus, when they voted in favor of the site in a straw poll Thursday evening.
Those present voted 84 in favor and 5 in opposition to the poll, a reaction that mirrors the comments made by many residents in the Farmington area over the past year. The new school will serve 400 pre-kindergarten to third grade students, offering improvements from the old design in aspects ranging from safety to air quality.
The poll is the first of two required by the state Department of Education as the multi-step building process moves forward. The DOE board overseeing school construction will begin reviewing the site itself in July or August, according to Assistant Superintendent Susan Pratt. If they also approve, a second straw poll will need to be held to see if residents like the school project’s concept and general layout.
Pratt opened the meeting by telling those present that the building committee had worked long and hard before deciding to build a new school on the parcel of land as the old school.
“It’s been a very comprehensive process,” Pratt said.
The architect, Stephen Blatt, agreed with Pratt’s assessment.
“I assure you we looked at options,” he said. “It has been a very thorough and sometimes difficult evaluation process. We concluded the value of the campus in the middle of this neighborhood would be tough to beat.”
That process began more than a year ago, after Mallett School made a list of schools the state believed needed improvement the most, filling the 20th spot on the 20-school list. It is the third time the school has applied for a construction project, the cost of which is borne chiefly by bonded state funds. Due to tight financial times for the state, it is not known when new applications for school construction will again be accepted.
The building committee decided to proceed with a plan which kept the school near downtown Farmington, rather than move it onto the Cascade Brook School campus; a decision which was supported by the local Parent Teacher Association, many educators, business owners and other individuals. The newest version of the plan calls for the existing building to remain in place while a new one is constructed near by.
The old structure would then be torn down, to make room for a wide park-like region.
Pratt and the board seemed pleased, but not overly surprised, by the affirmation from the assembled residents.
“It was a clear message,” she said, “that people want the school to stay in town. People have generally been very supportive through the whole process. We’re looking forward to the next step.”