Why West Norwalkers Oppose Private Schooling in the Neighborhood

The vast majority of speakers expressed concern that the proposed school would draw a flood of cars into the neighborhood and make congestion along the narrow residential streets almost unmanageable.

“We’re not used to a lot of traffic every day for five days a week, no matter how it’s structured,” said Fox Run Road resident Deane Evans. “That’s a lot more traffic than anyone here bought when they bought property here.”

Schoolhouse Academy Inc is seeking board approval to convert the 120-room hotel and conference center on Weed Avenue into a school with at least 20 classrooms.

“The proposal is to adaptively reuse the entire building as a non-sectarian private school for K-12 classrooms,” said Liz Suchy, an attorney representing the school. “It will provide parents, students in Norwalk and surrounding communities with an alternative to education.”

Carlo Schiattarella, co-founder of the academy, said the school would emphasize “project-based learning”. He said the school aims to open by fall 2023 with around 200 to 400 students, but plans to expand to 650 students.

According to the proposal, no major changes are planned for the brick exterior of the 150,000 square foot complex and no new structures will be built as part of the project. Architectural plans show that classrooms would replace meeting rooms in the centre’s main building.

The school would retain the conference fitness center, which includes a swimming pool, basketball court, dance studio, and a pair of racquetball courts. The school would also take advantage of the property’s existing tennis courts and has no plans to install new sports equipment.

Michael Galante, traffic engineer at Hardesty & Hanover, said a study found the school would generate 520 vehicle trips in the morning and 345 trips in the afternoon after students left.

Galante noted that students would not be allowed to drive to campus to reduce traffic. He said the school parking lot would have separate drop-off and pick-up sites for school buses and cars.

Henry Stozek, a resident of Weed Avenue, said he was concerned that increased traffic along the residential streets surrounding the property could lead to an increase in the number of accidents involving pedestrians.

“It will be more dangerous,” he said. “People aren’t going to want to walk around a neighborhood that they feel free to walk around in right now.”

Under a long-standing agreement with the owner, residents of West Norwalk were permitted access to the site for hiking and other recreational purposes. Suchy said that arrangement would continue if the school was approved.

Anthony Carrano, president of the West Norwalk Association, said traffic was the group’s main concern. But he added that the association is also skeptical that the owners of the private school will keep their promises.

“We don’t believe they won’t allow high school students to drive,” he said, adding that the association would rather see the conference center replaced with a seniors’ residence instead of a school. .

Not everyone who spoke at the public hearing opposed the proposal. Two people have spoken out in favor of bringing a school to the conference center, including Zach Bennett, a resident of Chipmunk Lane who said he was considering sending his children to the academy.

“We believe this is a much-needed requirement for families like us in this neighborhood, and we’ve been here for a decade, to fill some of the gaps and strategic shifts in Ponus Ridge School priorities,” he said. he declares.

The commission did not act on the proposal and did not close the public hearing. Chairman Louis Schulman said residents who have not yet addressed the commission about the proposal will have the opportunity to do so at a later date.

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