Hart Magnet School is one of six campuses in Stamford, Conn., that could be rebuilt under a public-private partnership.

Facility plan calls for rebuilding 6 schools in Stamford, Conn.

Dec. 2, 2019
City and school leaders have proposed a public-private partnerships to replace facilities plagued by mold.

The Stamford (Conn.) school district has proposed rebuilding six of its campuses, including its largest high school.

The Stamford Advocate reports that the plan calls for new facilities by 2022 for Hart Magnet Elementary School, Roxbury Elementary School, Cloonan Middle School, Toquam Magnet School and the Apples Early Childhood Educational Center, as well as the middle and high school alternative program, “Anchor.” Westhill High School would be rebuilt by 2024.

The Long-Term Facilities Plan is an extension of ideas first suggested in September by the city’s director of administration, Mike Handler, who proposed the privatization of a third of school buildings.

An earlier proposal called for private owners to construct new school facilities on their land, primarily unused corporate parks. The new plan would not place school facilities permanently on corporate land, but would still give private developers a role in constructing the new school buildings.

Under the revised plan, the city would sell its school land for the specific sites to a private party for one dollar. The private developer would demolish the existing school and build a new facility that it would lease back to the city for a 45 to 90 years, after which ownership of the land and buildings would revert to the city.

The push for upgrading facilities began a year ago after the scope of a mold crisis in Stamford schools and the cost of remediation became apparent.

Since August 2018, mold has been found in at least half of the district’s 21 schools. The problem led to the closure of Westover Magnet Elementary School.

A traditional model for school construction and operations is 70 percent more expensive than the “public-private partnership” plan, city and school leaders say. 

While the schools are under construction, most students would be placed temporarily in “swing spaces,” mainly empty corporate facilities, as has been the situation for Westover, which is being housed at a office building.

Westhill High would be housed at the former home of GE Capital while a new campus is built. Given the timeline, incoming freshmen next year could spend their entire high school tenure in the interim location.

In order to prepare the temporary spaces for construction by the start of next school year, as the plan’s timeline demands, Handler says the city needs to act quickly.

“If we want to pursue this sooner rather than later, we need to start designing the swing spaces so we can construct them,” Handler says.

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