By STEVE SMITH | Hartford Courant
December 7, 2023 at 11:42 a.m.
At a ceremony, on Dec. 5, students were the highlight as ground broke on a project that will bring an entirely new Windermere School building, hopefully in time for the opening of the 2025-26 school year.
The school, originally constructed in 1966, is home to grades K-6, and has been a hybrid elementary-intermediate school for years. The $74.6 million for the project was appropriated for the Windermere project after a referendum on May 23 of this year, but the state will be contributing most of the funding. The project will add 8,570 square feet to the school, and add separate areas for bus and parent drop-off/pick-up.
The building is a “renovate-to-new” project, and will be done in phases, in order to not disrupt learning. By the project’s completion, every part of the building will be brand new, and the addition will add the square footage to handle future student capacity.
Superintendent of Schools Scott Nicol said the voter support of the project – approximately 75% at a referendum – shows support for the town and its future.
“This is about the community tending to its school system, the community tending to its town, and this isn’t just about Ellington,” he said. “This is about the general Ellington area. The better stewards we are of our communities, of what we can control, how we can invest and how we can partner with others, this is what makes society great.”
Six fourth graders, representing a committee of students that have been instrumental in helping design parts of the project, took part in the ceremony, and several of them shared their excitement and thoughts.
Windermere Principal Jennifer Hill said that last year, the then third graders chose to write an essay, as part of a writing unit, addressed to her, specifying that they wanted a new playground (as part of the larger project), and included specifics. That essay led to the students becoming a task force that became an integral part of the design process.
“Little did they know that they had a job ahead of them,” Hill said. “They had many meetings with me, they led a survey of their peers, they researched online and in catalogs, and some of them even visited playgrounds around the state so they could send me pictures of what they did and did not want in their new playground. They even met with our architect team last spring to share their proposal of what they wanted their new playground to look like.”
Hill added that the task force would next be researching what types of furniture the new building’s classrooms should contain.
“I am really excited about the new school, because we will have better classrooms and a fun playground,” said student Nate Frachey. “The new school will be clean and shiny. I can’t wait to see it.”
“I was really excited to work with Ms. Hill and the team to plan out the new playground and new school,” said student Colton Spielman. “I really like that there were so many good ideas from our team, and the architects listened to us.”
“I am really excited to help plan for the new school and make new memories with my friends,” said student Sanvika Kumar.
“This brand new school will make for the best Windermere memories,” said student Charlotte Aubin.
“I’m really excited about the new school, because there will be new classrooms that us kids helped to create,” said Aanya Sinha, also a Windermere fourth grader.
State Sen. Faud Anwar said he was part of committees at the state level that was able to increase the state’s share of the price tag, along with State Rep. Jaime Foster.
“We were able to put more money [in] from the state, which was going to contribute 55%. We moved it up to 70%,” he said. “It’s something that the Town of Ellington should take pride in. The overwhelming majority of the people who came out said, ‘We want to take care of the next generation.’”
The increased state funds will save Ellington taxpayers $9 million, but Foster said that with inflation costs being saved by approving the funds early, the town will save closer to $14 million. For more information, visit www.ellingtonpublicschools.org.