Monday, March 01, 2021

Local News

Committee Makes Recommendation for Secure Entry at John Winthrop Middle School

The ad hoc committee for the secure entry project at John Winthrop Middle School (JWMS) recommended a specific design option to the Region 4 Board of Education (BOE) at its regular meeting on Jan. 7. The design option, the second one presented by the architectural firm QA+M architecture, at the board’s Nov. 17, 2020 special meeting, has a project cost of $825,000. The net cost after state reimbursement would be $486,000.

“We’ve come to the conclusion, as a group, that while none of us are happy about spending the money necessary, that option number two, which was presented in the packet, which is an exterior staircase, vestibule, and access ramp at the front of the school basically coming by the flagpole entrance there, is what we recommended for a variety of reasons,” said Region 4 BOE Treasurer DG Fitton, who served as chair of the ad hoc committee.

Fitton discussed the cost of the project and said, “it’s necessary for us to secure the school.”

Fitton continued, saying that there was lengthy discussion among the ad hoc committee members, JWMS Principal Matthew Espinosa, and JWMS Associate Principal Peter Foxen with the architects “to find less expensive alternatives.”

“We were unable to come up with something that met the security criteria as well as being non-disruptive to the school flow and the function of the building going forward as well as minimally, minimally invasive while the construction project was going on,” he said.

Region 4 BOE Member John Stack, who also participated with the ad hoc committee, discussed the process.

“It was a pretty rigorous conversation,” said Stack. “In terms of, I don’t think anybody was happy with the numbers at all, and it’s really, it’s a rather detailed path to how we got to the solution that we have, and you know, the current architecture and what not that is there really does not lend itself to other options, unfortunately.”

“We all wanted a lower cost,” said Rick Daniels, secretary for the Region 4 BOE and a participant with the ad hoc committee.

“I can’t not, you know, endorse this one. We need to secure the school. I couldn’t live with myself if something happened in the school because we didn’t do this. So, I hope we can somehow make it happen,” he continued.

Superintendent of Schools Brian White discussed the future of the project.

“Our next step would involve creating a formal building committee per policy,” said White. “That’s done for the purpose of going further with the architect and really exploring the option in much greater depth. It’s also a necessary step in what would ultimately potentially be the bonding process.”

He continued, saying, “If there is interest in going further, in exploring this option this evening, one suggestion, or recommendation would be to move to start that building committee, which then would allow us to take this to the next level, so to speak.

“And by engaging with the architect, we could then, in turn, come back to this board with recommendations about things like timeline, finance options…how does this fit into the overall budgeting process and so forth,” said White.

The vote to start a building committee was unanimous at the board’s Jan. 7 meeting.

Elizabeth Reinhart covers news for Chester, Deep River, and Essex for Zip06. Email Elizabeth at

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