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With the fate of Our Lady of Mercy’s school facility hanging in the balance, the school community has come together to create a Vision 2018 Committee to explore future options for the Catholic school.
The school, which is administered by the parishes of St. George in Guilford and St. Margaret in Madison, leases its Neck Road facility from The Sisters of Mercy, which recently announced it will not renew the school’s lease after the 2017-’18 session.
Committee members, introduced at the Feb. 22 annual state of the school meeting, quickly heard from parents concerned about the building and opened discussion of options to keep the school in town.
Committee member Paul Bauer said a common misunderstanding is that the school is closing, when in fact it is just the building that will close in 2018. Bauer said the 2018 deadline is also a big concern among parents.
“Two and a half years presents a short timeline if our ultimate plan is to build a new building or relocate to a currently in-use public building,” he said. “If we were to occupy a public building that is currently in use, we would need time for the present occupant to move and then for us to renovate, relocate, and begin operations. As a result, most parents are concerned that a 2 ½ year timeline presents a challenge.”
The committee, which is scheduled to meet every Monday until a plan is formed, is planning to explore several building options, including exploring other available school and public buildings in town and attempting to reconnect with the Sisters of Mercy.
“Our leadership teams are confident we can find a solution in the time period allowed, but it will require a robust effort with a multi-track approach where we investigate several options concurrently,” he said. “We cannot simply pursue a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C in order. They all must be investigated concurrently.”
Since the announcement that the lease will be terminated, Bauer said there has been very little communication with the Sisters of Mercy.
“Parents would like to see a strong effort to persuade the Sisters of Mercy to sell us the current property or extend our lease term long enough for us to find a new home that meets our needs,” he said. “They have suggested a capital campaign to support purchase of the land, a letter writing campaign to the Sisters of Mercy, and legal investigation into our options to lay claim to the property.”
While the committee begins to explore options, Father Sledesky of St. George in Guilford said at the meeting he has been pleased with the OLM’s community involvement in the process.
“Many of you have offered to help in many different ways and we are grateful for all of those offers of help,” he said. “We are committed to explore every single option to continue to provide high quality Catholic education that we have right now. We have an opportunity to shape our future.”
Vision 2018 Committee member John Picard added that the OLM community has been very grateful for the town’s interest in helping them find a new home.
“We are going to work hard to make sure the outcome that we want, happens,” he said.
First Selectman Tom Banisch said the town is committed to helping OLM find a solution that benefits the town and the school. Some parents expressed interest in Academy School as a possible new home for OLM, but Banisch said that might not be the best solution as prior estimates for the renovation of Academy School have conservatively reached $7 million.
“Trying to renovate Academy School to use it for OLM would be really expensive,” he said. “I don’t think it would be in their best interest to consider Academy as an alternative. There are other alternatives that we are looking at that we think would be a lot more cost effective for them and also be good for the town of Madison.”
To learn more about OLM and its Vision 2018 Committee, visit www.olmschool.com.
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