Letter: Full Saxe Building Project—Do It Once, Right and Now


To the Board of Selectmen, Town Council and Board of Finance:

What has made our school district so successful is that our community has supported the education of the whole child. It was an understanding that our children find their own paths to personal growth by excelling in academics, sports, theater, art, music, foreign language, STEM programming, etc. This concept of the whole child is especially important in the middle school years, which tend to be challenging. All these efforts have allowed New Canaan Public Schools to be recognized as shining examples of best practices. Families continue to move to New Canaan because of the excellent schools and our wonderful community. In turn, our community and our home market values continue to benefit from the strength and reputation of our schools.

The Saxe Building Project is not about a new initiative, it is simply about right sizing the facilities to provide an appropriate learning environment for the current Saxe students and expected future enrollment based on the current class sizes in the elementary schools. Currently 1,329 of our young residents enter Saxe every school day to be educated. The building was only meant to accommodate a capacity of 1,200 students. Enrollment is already well in excess of capacity and this lack of space comes at a cost to those students currently in the building—larger class sizes, undersized classrooms, lack of Special Ed classroom spaces, lack of adequate VPA spaces, no auditorium facility, no faculty lounge, crowded hallways, lack of teacher planning rooms. The time for this project is now. The excess students are already in the building and projected enrollment is increasing every year.

The Saxe auditorium was remediated this past summer and now sits as an empty shell and waits for project approval and funding from the town for its renovation. The students as a result are without an auditorium for educational programming this entire school year and next year as well. In January of this year, the Board of Selectmen tasked the Saxe Building Committee to delay the funding request for the auditorium renovation in order to make sure that all the educational capacity needs at Saxe are captured in one building project to achieve optimal cost efficiencies. The Saxe Building Committee has now presented a comprehensive plan to address all the immediate and future capacity needs at Saxe, and with timely town funding, construction would begin this coming summer.

To possibly delay scheduling a vote on the project or tying the approval of the Saxe Building Project to Teacher Salary contract negotiations is truly unfortunate. These are two different issues: one is a labor contract that is renegotiated every three years, with representatives of the town bodies included as part of those negotiations. The other, the Saxe Building Project, is a long-term (20 year) capital construction project to meet the current and future enrollment needs of our middle school. To delay the vote, and to delay the approval of this capital project by adding road blocks/red herrings would do a disservice to those students already at Saxe and those to soon follow.

Time is money, and this inaction is pennywise and pound foolish in two ways: the construction costs will be increasing as increased demand for other competing projects out of town will drive construction project pricing higher. Bonding interest rates will not go any lower so it would be prudent to get the project bonded at the lowest rate possible. The students are already at Saxe and many more are coming.

In recent days, there has also been discussion by the town bodies to consider doing this work in phases, so the auditorium is funded in one year and the expansion in a later budget cycle. This again is pennywise and pound foolish for the above mentioned reasons as well as the economies of scale that would not be captured by doing this project at one time. Aside from these additional monetary costs, the phasing suggestion neither considers the existing immediate need for core classrooms nor does it consider the additional adverse impacts and disruption to the education of those students currently in the building if the construction project is extended from one year to two years. Do it once, and do it right has often been repeated and we would add to that, do it now.

The town faces many other competing wants and needs for capital improvements, but are all those other projects of an immediate need as the Saxe core classrooms? Would the funding of the other capital projects positively impact as many of our residents every day? Opportunities might exist in some of those other capital projects, such as Waveny House and the movie theater, for public and private partnerships to help cover the costs for those necessary improvements. New Canaan is blessed with so much intellectual capital as well as a long history of volunteerism and community support. Many would be willing to donate their time and talents to raise funds to support such projects. Leadership, creativity and vision in addressing those items could go a long way to make those projects happen without increasing the tax burden significantly.

New Canaan’s elected and appointed town officials found a way to expeditiously fund the immediate need for the Town Hall Renovation. Our community requests that same consideration and support for the Saxe Building project, which is also an immediate need that directly impacts our youngest residents every school day. Do not delay the vote any longer. Support for this project will not only benefit the youngest of our residents, but also our entire community for decades to come.


Kristin Barnard

Melissa Coffman

Nicky Dunlop

Ann Dunn

Jennifer Essigs

Janet Fonss

Catherine Hanrattie

Suzanne J. Harrison

Janee Hunter

Diane Hobbs

Laura Kruger

Janet Lee

Kristen O’Connor

Michelle Orr

Katrina Parkhill

Meg Saunders

Kate Van Dussen

Maria Weingarten

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