Hurlbutt Elementary School: North House plans are still up in the air
Weston FORUM
By Patricia Gay on November 20, 2012

The Weston school district is considering giving a portion of the North House section of Hurlbutt Elementary School to the town. Most likely, the Senior Center, now located in a portion of South House, would move to North House.

The Weston school district is considering giving a portion of the North House section of Hurlbutt Elementary School to the town. Most likely, the Senior Center, now located in a portion of South House, would move to North House.

The Weston Board of Education has postponed voting on the status of North House at Hurlbutt Elementary School— whether to hand over part of it to the town for municipal use — until its Dec. 17 meeting.

The issue was originally going to be discussed and possibly voted on by the board on Nov. 19. However, because of the time crunch caused by storm Sandy, Superintendent Colleen Palmer said school officials want to give people more time to hear about the proposal for North House and weigh in with their opinions.

North House has been a topic of discussion at recent school board committee meetings, PTO meetings, and a “Coffee with the Superintendent” held last Saturday.

Dr. Palmer is asking the public to send questions about North House to her at; she will address them on her blog on the school’s website,

The Board of Selectmen initially was also going to discuss North House at its meeting on Monday, Nov. 19, but deleted the item from its agenda in light of the school board’s decision not to vote on the matter until next month.

“It is school property and the selectmen are not making any decisions until the schools decide what they are going to do,” First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said last Thursday.

Earlier this week, Ms. Weinstein added that there are “many, many steps” that need to be taken before anything is finalized.

First, the school board must decide what space it wants to hand over to the town and who would be responsible for what. Then the Board of Selectmen would have to discuss it and decide whether to accept the space and the conditions being proposed by the schools. Next it would need to go to the Planning and Zoning Commission for 8-24 approval since it involves changing the use of a town-owned building. And finally, any plan that involves money for renovations also needs finance board approval.

Declining enrollment

The issue under consideration is what to do with extra space in the Weston schools in light of projections of declining enrollment.

Enrollment for the school district peaked in 2006 with 2,615 students. It has been on a steady decline ever since, and as of Oct. 1, 2012, there were 2,430 students enrolled in Weston public schools.

A study prepared by NESDEC (New England School Development Council) projected a continued decrease in enrollment in the next 10 years. While the projection is not a certainty — and should the economy improve, enrollment rates could stay the same or increase — Dr. Palmer has said the district should prepare in case enrollment continues to decrease.

At a joint meeting of the boards of selectmen, finance, and education on Oct. 10, Dr. Palmer said it made the most sense to turn over the first floor space at Hulrbutt’s North House to the town for its use.

The second floor of North House would remain with the school, but could be re-allocated in the future.

Dr. Palmer told the Hurlbutt PTO last week that unlike the three other schools in the district, the elementary school was built in phases and sections, so it makes sense to allocate space from Hurlbutt to the town rather than from the other schools.

The Senior Activities Center would likely relocate from the South House of Hurlbutt, where it is located now, to North House. This is a move Dr. Palmer supports because the school would like to use South House, which was designed specifically for small children. North House is better suited for older grades. Hurlbutt currently houses grades pre-K through two.

Nothing is finalized

In addition to the Senior Center, the town could also relocate some of its offices — such as Parks and Recreation, Children and Youth Services, or  Social Services — to North House, but no final decision has been made about that proposal.

Ms. Weinstein said on Monday she has heard that one likely condition of use will be that land use offices — which are often visited during the workday by contractors and other members of the public — not be re-located to Hurlbutt if students are still using the second floor.

“Nothing is finalized yet. It still has not been fully vetted with the Board of Selectmen,” Ms. Weinstein said.

In order to protect the safety and integrity of the school, Dr. Palmer said, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) would be entered into with the town about the use of North House.

Should the schools need to take the space back because of increased enrollment, Dr. Palmer said, that language would be included in the memorandum. “Nothing will erode the quality of the curriculum or education,” Dr. Palmer said.

Ms. Weinstein said she would like to see a long-term agreement with the schools — as long as five or even 10 years. Neither the schools nor the town wants to spend money renovating the space if it needs to be changed again in a few years, she said.

“I want to be pretty clear. Any space we renovate, it will be that way for a while going forward,” Ms. Weinstein said.

This past August, the school board entered into a short-term MOU with the town approving the use of additional space in South House for the Senior Center for the 2012-13 fiscal year. In that MOU, the school board assumed all electric, heating, and cleaning costs for the Senior Center area.

Dr. Palmer and Ms. Weinstein told the PTO that if the Senior Center moves to North House, the town, rather than the schools, would assume those costs.

The MOU also foresaw the possibility that more space could open up in the schools because of declining enrollment. It stated, “Anticipating that further fluctuations in enrollment will impact space usage of district facilities by the town, the BOE [Board of Education] will endeavor to identify what district space may be available for use by the town during the 2013-14 fiscal year as soon as reasonably possible during the upcoming fiscal year.”

A few years ago, the schools agreed to give up space in South House for the town to establish a Senior Center. What was originally one room for seniors has since expanded to three classrooms and partial use of a multi-purpose room, for a total of 2,100 square feet.

At North House, the Senior Center would also get 2,100 square feet of space, but unlike the multi-purpose room in South House, which was shared with the school, the center would get a full 2,100 square feet for its sole use.

A separate parking lot would be constructed for the Senior Center at North House, freeing up spaces currently designated for the center at South House.

Because North House has separate outside entrances, it can be closed off so there won’t be direct access from it to the main school building.

When a parent at the PTO meeting asked about the possibility of relocating the district’s central offices to North House instead of putting town offices there, Dr. Palmer said that would not be considered unless the second floor of North House was vacated, which at this time it isn’t.

However, Ms. Weinstein said it’s her understanding that the school board is considering vacating the Town Annex building in 2015-16, and creating office space on the second floor of North House. That is another thing that is very much in the “discussion” phase, however, she added.

No decision has been made about the status of the playground next to North House.

Parents at the PTO meeting said they have concerns about the future plans for North House and hope their input will be part of the school board’s discussion and decisions.

Hurlbutt parent Melissa Chesman said parents do not begrudge seniors the opportunity to have space in North House. However, if parts of North House are being considered for other community ventures she believes a discussion with the community should take place now before any action is taken.

Core building; new windows on East House, across the "quad" from South to East House;  North House; its Field.  NOT A DROP OF WATER INSIDE DURING MID-DECEMBER RAIN/SNOW!

HURLBUTT 2003:  WINDOW  REPLACEMENT  PROJECT - NORTH   HOUSE   FIELD; North House to get more renovation in the summer for asbestos abatement, among other health concerns (and it needs it--I once passed out at a Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing held in the basement there in the 1980's).


Click here (or on the invitation) to enter a very special tour of the new and improved Weston High School!

December 21, 2005 view of Weston Intermediate School - students and teachers enjoying this building!  (It opened on time after the summer vacation!).

At this time, some new wings and the new entrance to Weston High School not complete (although other new parts including new gym and facilities as well as the science wing are up and running) and final ribbon cutting a way away...meanwhile, the future of "Kinderland" (r.) up in the air;

Above, entrance to Weston Middle School (l.) and view of  Hurlbutt South and East Houses (from the Onion Barn) on the same day in December, 2005.


August first visit to the "loop road" finds furniture delivery to the Intermdeiate School (l.), pristine soccer field and Tonka city...Assistant Principal, O&G, "About Town" and Principal in a finished but not furnished room on the second floor of the Intermediate School...

SUMMER - the Intermediate School from the sand pile, which, like the forest of Dunsinane, keeps moving...and then to full view of the sand pile with trailer and Weston High School in distance. 

"About Town"previous reverse chronological order below.
Winter 2004 - 2005 (below).

Without violating the rules, not setting foot within O&G's turf, "About Town" got these three (3) shots:  the 3-4-5 (all closed in and getting the classroom wings finished);  the new gym at Weston High School (work going on under white plastic sheets--blends with the snow!) and lastly, Saturday morning, January 29, 2005, power company personnel (we assume) working up high to get service to the campus. 

On the left, donated trees from Stecks (thank you!);  new football field goalposts;

New 3-4-5 school takes shape and form;  tertiary treatment plant (note generator in yellow);  the big blue truck;

The form of the new sections of Weston High School try to meet up with the old building...

Schools opened on time and without incident 2004-2005.
During the first month, heavy rains infiltrated parts of the campus and the high school, but Board of Ed Facilities TEAM, O&G, CT DEP and our Conservation Commission are on the job remediating problems caused by these storms.  An example below (and many similar or related S&E measures visible on September 26, when the photo was taken)--does not show outlet pipe into detention pond - one of several, plus lots of rip-rap and hay bales.

You can tell CT DEP and Conservation called O&G's attention to importance of S&E controls.  Silt-Fence City is my new name for School Road.  On the right, October 30, 2004 photo show the road paved (as far as a turnaround at the 3-4-5--not yet paved to meet WHS and School Road).

Check out 14 official pictures of progress and/or interior of the school complex HERE.

WESTON, CT. SCHOOLS & FIELDS CONSTRUCTION:  September 26, 2004, @ one month on into the school year...see how the 3-4-5 and W.H.S. are doing!

Parking & Paving Plan for School Road...seems to be working:
As of Sept. 26, 2004, road to rear of W.M.S. not paved--I would think it MUST BE DONE to some measure of completeness in time for...

ELECTION DAY Tuesday November 2, 2004!  (Voting at WMS)

Things are taking shape:
At the new 3-4-5 school site - road, curbs, S&E controls and...the building is emerging!  It was very difficult to find dry land on the campus for a new 3-4-5.  Even making it two stories was a tight fit!  NOTE:  the road to the 3-4-5 (above) loops around to the end of the high school and intersects School Road - a "queuing lane" for school buses uploading/loading passengers.  Times are different for pick up/drop-off at the 2 buildings.

Site plan comes to life!
Look at how the new gym and clerestory-corridor at WHS relates to new 3-4-5 structure...grass is now or will be being planted for some greensward at the parking lot (front of photo).  Autumn colors show the construction as it fits in the timeline--if the blue tarps cover bricks at the high school, I sure hope we don't get a visit from one or more of the seasonal storms raising havoc in Florida.

See the high school grow new wings!
Do you think the elegance of the theatre space will be enhanced by the addition of art and music rooms?  (See the steel for these above.)  Not much new at this end of the building in the last month (my observation--I really do not know this for a fact at all) based upon the photographs on this page.  However, it is PRECISELY at this corner of the high school that connections to the new infrastructure for sewage treatment must tie in!

Library/Media space...airconditioned (see unit behind structure--not the blue tarp):
High School getting more dramatic by the moment...we hope the infiltration matter gets solved soon.  Notice orange fencing--this looks like a clear indication of where to go or not go (for what purpose we don't know).

WESTON, CT. SCHOOLS & FIELDS CONSTRUCTION:  how is it coming along one week on into the school year?

School has been open for a week, North House Field hole filled (it was fun playing there all summer) - see the "progress" of new parking lot with proper signage;  new 3-4-5 school taking shape.  We took walking tour with O&G, Building Committee and Construction Manager September 1st - looked like progress to us!

Weston High School:  new 2-story library/research center going up (this new shape for roofing [original was flat]) at the high school is an echo of the Middle School--see how much like clouds these new additions look!  Weston High is getting a "skirt" - the administrative wing and entry to the dramatic auditorium in the original building.  At the right is the second gym's roof (clerestory hallway between gyms and workout places also under construction).  Notice how level the area between School Road and the parking lot has gotten (?).

Tertiary Treatment Plant: now has roof and brick-work unifying it with other buildings on School Road.  Will effluent be unveiled when sheet comes down?  And the refreshment stand is in at Little League Fields - how do you park to go swimming at lovely Bisceglie-Scribner Park? 

School Road:  The photos below were taken before schools opened.  The schools opened without any problems.

Parking and Paving:  what we saw just before the last weekend before schools opened...
Right now the high school parking lot and School Road seem to be paved (photo at left from August 20 shows it in the process of being paved with binder course+);  the only part of the project down to the dirt (as of Wednesday, August 25) is the new and wider driveway to the rear of Weston Middle School.  And behind the high school, (next to wetlands) where the new science wing ('K') is attached, if we heard correctly, water may be a problem (not related to previous Army Corps approvals).  Solution being put in place.
In Progress:
The NEW 3-4-5 school is not due to be opened until next year (center - walls going up as we speak) and the tertiary treatment plant is not scheduled to be on line until some time in September (right) -- arrangements are worked out and toilets are functioning now - temporary procedural substitute for new tertiary treatment plant in place.  Design changes for glass tint will make inner workings of plant invisible.

PLAYING FIELDS:  Fields for little league at Bisceglie Park (left) to be open for weekend use only this Fall;

Morehouse Farm Park and the Minerva Heady House at right--note newly paved road that winds its way to high point where fields are located (for community use).  It is here some of the best views in Weston can be seen--now everyone who visits Morehouse Farm Park can enjoy spectacular vistas across the Saugatuck Reservoir.

It is now July.  Sunday the back of W.M.S. serves as safe area for pitching wedge practice, X-country running...

NOTES: Bisceglie fields ready for finishing off, planting (?) - not shown above because it is dangerous to park on the side of Newtown Tpke, even on a Sunday afternoon!  L to R:  1)Pile of sand moves to Hurlbutt...2)ring road gets wider, 3-4-5 too!  3)Green construction trailer in front of high school means business--additions to the front just budding!!!  4)Tertiary treatment plant sits high up and will be bermed at back.  P.S.  it is very close to neighbors--we could hear a radio playing the lovely Sunday afternoon these snapshots were taken...

Special Town Meeting June 17, 2004 did not save any of the trees at the left;  more June progress shots!

The last weeks of school...unofficial genre scenes, Weston School Campus construction and environs, June 2004.

CONSTRUCTION PIX (link to Board of Ed site):
Start your engines (but not too early in the morning) - school construction progress...the "big dig" OOPS - no pictures for the summer because the Board of Education staff is away--also, fiber optic cable had to be that may be why official, B.O.E. pictures lag.

Pictures of March thru current (earliest samples above) About Town CONSTRUCTION PIX for the unofficial word!  "About Town" went out and drove around at the end of the school year, in July and in late August...we went on one site walk early on, but only Board of Ed and Building Committee members are intrepid enough to do this regularly!!!

IMPORTANT NEWS FOR WESTONITES:  Summer is over and we all hope we never have to go through so much anxiety again!  Traffic plans for summer camps run by Parks and Recreation worked, but other plans needed is now about one week until schools reopen for 2004-2005...

WESTON MIDDLE SCHOOL AUDITORIUM (aka "Performing and Creative Arts Center"): DESIGN COMPETITION schedule on hold (back to original time frame) before any construction will begin.  Competitions are one way to create interest in projects, and funding.   In the case of the Weston Middle School Auditorium, the School Building Committee is reviving the plans of winning design, to modifiy them to suit a smaller budget (only funds from Referendum question #3 to be used)...

Meeting Agendas and unofficial notes:
Performing Arts Center (Sub-Committee of Weston Building Committee)
Saturday, January 31, 2004, 8am to 1pm or so plus Executive Session after (posted until 2:30pm);  Weston Library Community Room.
Agenda for Stage Three of Architecture Design Competition
9:30am-10am  BREAK during transfer of presentation and set-up; 11am-11:30am  BREAK during transfer of presentations and set-up;

Performing Arts Center (Sub-Committee of Weston Building Committee)
Wednesday, January 14, 2004 7pm-7:30pm, Commission Room at Town Hall

Three architecture firms identified for selection; site visit Monday, January 5, 2004 at 10am at the W.M.S. - official word (from DRAFT minutes of site visit) shows that the 3 firms will go to the last round of this competition are:  ARO, Office dA and TEN Arquitectos. At the School Building Committee meeting on Wednesday, January 7, 2004 a copy of the DRAFT site visit was obtained.

The complex forms each of the seven (7) members of the Committee shown below filled out were tabulated by the Competition Director (Reed Kroloff) and the numbers told the story (if there was a tie, there were special conditions prepared as to how to determine rank order [since only three firms were to go on to the "final" stage])...the next phase will not be carried out the same way, because all 3 firms will have to produce "fly-thru" video, a model and 3 "boards" full of design information.  Perhaps this material will be shown on the Town TV Channel during the Saturday, January 31, 2004 final presentation competition?


Below are photos taken by "About Town" at the Dec. 20, 2003 event held in the Community Room at Weston Library, on Town TV CHANNEL 79 LIVE.

The "jury" consisted of three (3) architect-members of the School Building Committee (including its Chair. as well as the Chair. of the Design-Subcommittee), seated on one side of the room, the Superintendent of Schools (a member of the School Building Committee), Board of Education member who is its representative on the School Building Committee, Vice-Chair. of the Weston Education Foundation (which agreed to assist in fundraising up to $1 million plus) and a prominent architect-administrator of arts grants from Washington.  Reed Kroloff is retained to run the competition, and is not on the "jury." 

The place, the Competition Director, Reed Kroloff;  the Jury...the location of where the building must sit hard by Weston Middle School;

The architects (minus the last group from Mexico City/N.Y.C. - we ran out of film)...televised live over Town TV Channel 79 direct from Library!

The fifth presenter (not pictured above) can be found on the Internet HERE.

Because the decision was reached at a private discussion (in Executive Session--we are sure that no vote was taken, because that might be in violation of F.O.I. rules) immediately after the Dec. 20 presentations, and it is to be kept secret as to which of the above five (5) become the three (3) finalists who will compete after the New Year thru the end of January, "About Town" could hazard a guess based upon having listened to parts of all of the presentations, out of respect for everyone involved, we won't do it.  Weston FORUM reporter present for the whole day--thank you Tom!

Architects Present Science Center Designs
By TOM PULEO, The Hartford Courant
September 21, 2004

Four pillars of science at Hartford Competition: design concepts (l.-r.) - road construction, TV as icon (winner Cesar Pelli), body parts, nervous system.  This is a competition being conducted in Hartford in September 2004. 

Four prominent architects unveiled designs this morning for the $150 million Connecticut Center for Science and Exploration that are modern, eye-catching, with views of both downtown Hartford and the Connecticut River.

The finalists in the international competition had been given a difficult charge: to design an architectural tour de force that complements Hartford's skyline and retains its own identity.  Planners want a science center that's flexible, accessible, secure, "green" and provides arresting views of the city and the river. They also want it on time and under budget and done on a difficult, 2.5-acre site.

Though planners are seeking public input on the design, they have given themselves a tight timetable in which to act. They have said they will announce an architect from among the four on Friday.  The four firms vying for the challenge are among the best in their business, complete with international renown and resumes stretching from Malaysia to Minnesota.

They are Cesar Pelli & Associates Architects, New Haven; Moshe Safdie and Associates Inc. Architects and Planners, Boston; Zaha Hadid Architects, London; and Behnisch, Behnisch & Partner Inc., Venice, Calif.

The science center is paying $50,000 for each plan, leaving it with ownership rights and the ability to mix and match design elements.

The small site at the northern edge of Adriaen's Landing presents some design constraints, according to a museum consultant. Construction can only go one way -- up. The site has environmental issues and the building will need at least two major entrances, one on Columbus Boulevard and another at the level of Riverfront Recapture's walkway over I-91.

The cost of construction is estimated around $100 million. The finished center would cost about $150 million and include exhibits exploring the Connecticut River, health and medicine, outer space and the relation of science to the state's arts and heritage venues.  The 160,000-square-foot building also would include a large screen theater, a smaller multi-use theater, an education center with themed classrooms and teacher resources, a restaurant and a gift shop.

The science center would become the second biggest in New England, behind the Boston Museum of Science (420,000 square feet). Nationally, it would fall in the medium-size category.

Sydney Opera House (above) not the model for W.M.S. improvements
Performing and Creative Arts Center (PCAC) Committee:
Sub-Committee of Weston Building Committee/School Building Committee
Membership of this Sub-Committee made up of competition judging panel.