Imagine a classroom that has no walls or doors but consists of a larger room with accordion dividers and makeshift walls made up of file cabinets, storage units and office partition walls. Half of these rooms have no windows.
These are the conditions of the classrooms, nicknamed “clusters” at Ledyard Middle School.
Cathy Patterson, Assistant Superintendent of Ledyard Public Schools, said it is easy for students and teachers to hear what is going on in the next cluster and that “many children can’t focus.”
Students have to walk through the back of another class to get to the external hallways which create more distractions.
The setup also poses safety issues during a lockdown.
Residents were given a tour of these conditions at Thursday’s school renovation project public forum.
Ledyard Middle School Principal Greg Keith interviewed students and teachers in a video regarding current conditions at the school. While some teachers said the cluster format encourages collaboration between classes, the disadvantages outweigh the one advantage.
Residents were given two schematic drawings regarding changes to Ledyard Middle School.
Architect C. James Lawler explained that the “addition only” plan would create a wing for the sixth grade and pre-school but would involve no changes to the existing building.
The “renovate as new” plan would create the addition as well as eliminating the clusters and replacing them with individual classrooms with windows and security locks.
Five new science labs would be built under this plan along with a kitchen.
The kitchen would allow the school to prepare its own food and prepare it for nearby Gales Ferry and Juliet W. Long Schools.
Right now, Ledyard High School prepares all food in the district and transports it to the various schools.
The “renovate-as-new” plan would add sprinklers to the school and provide new energy conservation systems designed to save money in the long-term.
A sixth grade wing would bring about 180 sixth graders from Gallup Hill, Juliet W. Long, and Ledyard Center Schools and 85 to 90 pre-schoolers from Gallup Hill.
The move is intended to allow space at the grade schools for full-day kindergarten and allow for the possible closure of the Ledyard Center School, the oldest school in the district, which is in need of a $1 million roof.
Sixth grade staff and students would be able to collaborate with the seventh and eighth grade at Ledyard Middle School.
This collaboration is necessary, Patterson explains, because of increasingly rigorous Common Core State Standards.
Material that was previously taught in the seventh and eighth grade, like statistics, will now be taught in the sixth grade.
Sixth grade teachers, which previously were not required to specialize in a specific subject like physics, can collaborate with seven and eighth grade teachers who have that certification.
Sixth grade students would also have access to a larger variety of extra curricular activities, if they were moved to the middle school.
Ledyard Mayor John Rodolico said the town will continue to have forums to inform residents on this project along with a proposal for a new police facility. Both plans are expected to go to referendum and appear before voters next year.