Changes for alternative program location on hold
NEW CANAAN — Plans to renovate space occupied by the town’s new alternative school to make for a better education space remain on hold.
After being accused of trying to bypass proper approval to renovate space at 39 Locust Ave., the schools brought its proposal to the Planning and Zoning Commission this week and a public hearing was opened.
The alternative high school program, tailored for students who have a difficult time attending full-time classes at the high school. There are currently nine students in the program for the 2018-19 school year.
Last month, the Planning and Zonning Commission discussed sending the Board of Education a cease-and-desist letter though this was ultimately dismissed as the commissioners thought this would negatively impact the students already in session.
At the hearing Tuesday, Superintendent of Schools Bryan Luizzi apologized for what commissioners had called a “bypass” of the Planning and Zoning body.
Luizzi said the school board discussed using the Outback building behind town hall in January, but that option had been dismissed.
“We searched to see if there were other spaces late in spring,” Luizzi told the commission. “When a tenant at 39 Locust Ave. moved out, we asked if it was possible to run the program there.”
The school district has a similar program, LAUNCH, that serves children with special needs ages 18 to 21 and is also located on the first floor of 39 Locust Ave.
The Board of Education’s site application filed Sept. 27 outlines a plan to remove two existing non-structural partition walls and the addition of one new partition wall.
“This will create efficient space for large group instruction, small group instruction and an office for the staff,” the site application reads.
Commissioner John Kriz asked why the Board of Education could not run the alternative program at any of the other five schools in the district. Luizzi responded that the district wanted the program to have its own identity and place.
The changes outlined in the site application were put on hold as of last month when the commission issued its warning to the board of education.
Currently, the Board of Education has a one-year renewable lease for the office space at 39 Locust Ave. though officials are already looking at the 2019 school year as the program may increase in size.
The Board of Education filed its site application though not within the 10-day timeframe required to be put as a notice, thus pushing the hearing into the commission’s meeting in October.
Chairman of the Board of Education Dionna Carlson and Jo-Ann Keating, chief financial officer of the school district, were also present at the meeting.
The hearing remains open into the Planning and Zoning Commission’s Oct. 30 meeting. The Board of Education left with its application filed but not without a slap on the wrist from the commission.