School building panel to stay on 
 By LINDA G. MELE     Correspondent     Thursday, July 12, 2001   6:04 AM MST

DERBY -- The Derby High School Building Committee has agreed to stick together for a while to learn why voters last month defeated plans to build a new high school for the second time in two years.

The committee was widely expected to disband at its meeting Tuesday, since its $31 million proposal to build a new high school off Route 34 failed in the June 12 referendum.

But members instead agreed Tuesday that the committee should stay in place until a new committee can be appointed to draw up a new proposal to address the district's crowded classrooms.

We need to talk to people before a new committee is appointed to deal with the problem of overcrowding, member Mark Domurad said.

The defeat of the proposal to build the new school was a stunning blow for proponents of the plan. A more extensive school building plan met defeat in a referendum in 2000.

Many backers of the plan felt residents went to the polls not clearly understanding the need for the new high school.

People asked why we needed a new school, said Supt. Martin Gotowala. He said voters couldn't get it out of their heads that you can't just add a few classrooms to relieve overcrowding.

The existing Derby High School on Nutmeg Avenue houses 704 students in grades seven through 12. Gotowala said the district needs at least 40 classrooms for the high school, grades nine to 12, and 31 for the middle school, grades six to eight.

We need more space and just moving students around isn't going to give us that, he said.

An option that has been proposed since the referendum is to expand the existing high school to include grades six through 12.

A representative from the architectural firm of Fletcher Thompson on Tuesday showed the committee a conceptual drawing of a combined middle and high school with some shared areas.

We need totally separate buildings and there should be a solid wall between the two, not a swinging door, Gotowala said. I couldn't support a proposal to house grades six through 12 in a single school.

Concerns about the site proposed for the new high school -- a 25.5-acre lot owned by Walter Hine -- also may have cost votes, said Michael Kelleher, building committee chairman and a Democratic alderman.

Even the television news that night made reference to the fact that the Hine property was contaminated, Kelleher said. Mr. Hine received a clean bill of health from the city.

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