Farmington to vote on multi-million dollar school project

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FARMINGTON – Community members will have a chance to vote on a new Farmington High School Thursday.

A building project, approved by town council the end of May, comes with the price tag of $135-million dollars. This price doesn’t include an anticipated grant from the state, or interest rates.

The project includes ADA updates, updated gymnasiums and auditorium, an expanded cafeteria, a new learning common area and library. It would also be home to the Board of Education.

A group supporting the project, Farmington Future, have been holding a phone bank, calling out to community members to, “Vote Yes.”

“The current building has numerous academic and structural concerns that affect accreditation, ADA compliance, and student safety,” the group wrote on its website. “These issues are outlined in the Facility Review developed over the past 2 years by the FHS Building Committee appointed by the Town Council.”

The President of Farmington Future Beth Kinter said the current building is neither efficient or effective.

“Teachers teach and students learn differently than they did many years ago when a lot of the high school was built,” she said. “It’s not something that’s conducive to what we call 21st century learning.”

The new building would take over the existing one and construction would take place while the existing building is occupied.

Building Committee Member Justin Bernier said the disruption to student learning is one reason he voted down the proposal.

“We do need to do a lot at FHS, there’s no doubt about it, we need to do a major overhaul, we need renovations but the plan that we have in front of us right now would be the most expensive high school in Connecticut history and one of the most expensive in all the nation,” he said.

Bernier pointed out that there have been renovations made to the high school beginning in 2003.

“We’re only about halfway through paying them off,” he said. “Those areas could be the core of a future FHS and that would allow us to build a fantastic school probably less than half the price that we have right now.”

He said the extra money would allow for teacher retention and growth of programs for students.

“We can bring back culinary, we can expand our tech ed, we can do any number of things, more languages,” he said.

A group against believes the school needs rennovations but the cost is too high. On its website, the group maps out the cost of the plan to be $184-million, counting in interest over 20 years. If the state reimburses the project, it brings it down after interest to $149-million.

The referendum is on June 15th at your regular polling place. A full look at the project can be found here as well as plans and renderings.

If the project is passed construction would take place in phases beginning in fall of 2018 through summer of 2022.

At a public hearing, Tuesday, community members expressed concern about a video that surfaced allegedly showing two people putting down paperwork at a town meeting last Monday. Town council members said they were going into executive session to investigate this further. Check back with FOX61 for updates.