State aid could cut school cost 
 Promise of state aid offers supporters hope in Derby 
 By GREG SHULAS     Tuesday, July 03, 2001   5:46 AM MST

DERBY -- After a crushing defeat at the polls last month, backers of building a new Derby High School got an infusion of hope Monday.

The state has offered to reimburse 70 percent of the costs of any school construction projects voters approve through next June 30, said James Gildea, Board of Education president.

The funding allows us to regroup and continue to work on an acceptable solution to overcrowding problems here, said Gildea, who strongly supports a new high school.

Last month, voters defeated controversial plans for a $31 million high school 1,899 to 1,440. Last year, voters torpedoed a more-expansive school building project.

The school board was notified Monday that the financing would be available, Gildea said.

A new school construction committee should form to address classroom overcrowding, said Board of Aldermen President Michael Kelleher, D-3.

Under city regulations, the current school construction committee must disband because its proposal was voted down, he said.

No matter what we do, we have to get it approved by the voters. Without their approval, we can't do anything, said Kelleher, who has led efforts to build a new high school.

Opponents of a new school say the project would be too expensive. Overcrowding could instead be addressed by building additions to the existing high school on Nutmeg Avenue, they say.

We need to do something for our children, said resident John Kowarik, who is critical of proposals to build a new high school. Most of the people who voted no for the project believe there should be an addition. I hope the city officials listen to the people who voted it down.

Proponents of a new school say an addition would not solve the school's problems.

We need a separate middle school and high school program, Gildea said. Both programs are now in the same facility. Having two programs is much more beneficial from an educational point of view.

Kelleher said the opportunity to have 70 percent of the costs reimbursed might not occur again in the 2002-03 fiscal year.

He would like residents to work together on a plan that could be approved in a new referendum.

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