Despite months of negotiations and parent protests, the Wintergreen Interdistrict Magnet School will leave its home on Wintergreen Avenue come fall.
The Town of Hamden and Area Cooperative Educational Services (ACES) issued a joint statement on Monday announcing that they were unable to come to an agreement regarding the sale of the building, meaning the town will incorporate it as a district elementary school and ACES will take its program elsewhere.
According to the statement, “after extensive efforts, the Town of Hamden and Area Cooperative Educational Services (ACES) have concluded negotiations regarding the sale of the Wintergreen property and were unable to come to financial terms mutually beneficial to our respective needs.”
The announcement came after months-long negotiations between the town and ACES. For the past 20 years, ACES has run the Wintergreen Interdistrict Magnet School, a K-8 magnet school that draws from Hamden, New Haven, and surrounding towns (click here to read more about Wintergreen). In May, the town, which owns the building, notified ACES that it intended to use the building as a district elementary school starting in the fall of 2019, meaning ACES would have to vacate the building.
Over the course of the fall, ACES Executive Director Thomas Danehy tried to negotiate a deal with Mayor Curt Leng to buy the building from the town. According to ACES Marketing and Outreach Chief Evelyn Rossetti-Ryan, “We tried to make [the offer] as attractive as we could.” It was not attractive enough, however. ACES was unable to offer a price that was high enough for the town.
“The mayor had higher expectations than our pocketbook would allow for,” Danehy said. “He was well, well above the appraisal value. It was a handsome offer that we made, but it wasn’t good enough for them.” He declined to elaborate on the specific prices discussed in negotiations.
Though negotiations were still ongoing at the time, the Board of Education voted on Nov. 29 to petition the mayor and the Legislative Council to take back the Wintergreen building. Incorporating the building into the Hamden School District is part of a broad redistricting plan that will also involve closing the Shepherd Glen and Church Street schools.
Incorporating Wintergreen into Hamden Public Schools will help the BOE in a few ways as it navigates the difficult process of restructuring the district. First, it will provide a swing space for students from schools that will undergo renovations in the next two years. Once those renovations are over, the building will serve as a regular district elementary school, housing students who would formerly have attended the Shepherd Glen or Church Street schools. The Wintergreen school will also be home to students with special needs.
Though it will have to relocate, ACES has committed to maintaining the Wintergreen program. Though nothing is official yet, ACES is considering entering into an agreement with the state to use a Gateway Community College building in North Haven, which was home to Cortlandt V.R. Creed Health & Sports Sciences High School until it closed after the 2017-2018 school year. That plan will need state approval before it can go forward.
“It’s not official,” said Rossetti-Ryan, “but it’s looking very promising.”
Danehy said ACES expects to sign a five-year lease next month, once it gets needed board approvals. “We have to do some upgrades to the building — the kitchen, the student cafeteria — as well as cosmetic things to upgrade the facility,” Danehy added.
As a backup, ACES has vacant space on Skiff Street from the Eli Whitney High School campuses, which are moving into a newly renovated building on Leeder Hill Road in August, Danehy said. But “that’s hardly a good spot for young kids. There’s no playground. It’s just too busy,” he said. “I think we should be well-situated with Gateway. I’m expecting that works out well.”
After the school year ends, ACES will have about three weeks to clear out the current building to meet a June 30 move-out date, Danehy said.
Many Wintergreen parents have opposed the town’s decision, and have made it clear that they will stick with ACES, despite the move.
Christopher Peak contributed reporting.