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NPS set to get its welcome center, down the street from Norwalk City Hall

The Human Services building, located at the intersection of East Wall Street and Park Street. (Google)

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk Public Schools plans to open a family center in the Human Services building at 1 Park St., just down the street from City Hall, using federal COVID-19 relief funds.

You may recall, Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Alexandra Estrella sought $5.9 million this year to renovate the former Briggs High School into a welcome center. The City said no and this plan to rent space fills that need, Norwalk Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Thomas Hamilton said Wednesday.

“We’re convinced that this can serve as a really ideal spot for this district Family Center,” Hamilton said to the Board of Education Finance Committee. “…This is a major new initiative for the district and one that we think is very much in line with the goals and objectives that are laid out in this new strategic operating plan.”

The “welcome center” will be inside the “family center,” because the facility will be “really a whole lot more,” Hamilton said.

“It’s really serving all of our families, and all of the needs that our families have,” he said.  It will be a “one-stop shop” for registration, accessing specialized learning services, getting information and guidance on transportation issues,

“So it becomes really a one-stop shop for central registration and becomes a one-stop shop for specialized learning, and accessing specialized learning services and services for multilingual learners, accessing information and guidance and help on transportation issues, “centralizing our school choice options, which right now are very decentralized.”

There will be a technology depo, student records, and space for the volunteer groups that help NPS, he said. “So we think this is really very, very much needed. And this will greatly enhance the school district’s efforts to serve our families.”

The Finance Committee approved the plan so it can move to the full Board for a vote, though details aren’t quite worked out.

Hamilton said the “base rent will be based on a fee of $17 per square foot,” which would include all expenses: utilities, repairs, maintenance, etc.

But, “We’re just still, sort of, nailing down exactly the amount of square footage that the district will be taking, because there are some existing tenants in the property that are using a portion of the property,” he said. “So it’s likely that we will have an initial square footage thing here, which they then will likely increase when that other space becomes available.”

It looks like the district will rent 10,733 square feet initially and that might increase to 14,836 square feet, “So the rental rate within start out at about $15,200 a month and ended up at just over $21,000 a month,” he said. NPS will also reimburse the landlord, Human Services Council Inc., for capital improvements such as carpeting, removing a wall and ADA (American Disabilities Act) improvements to the bathrooms.

Board of Education Chairman Colin Hosten asked if NPS might acquire the building.

It’s appraised at $3.5 million.

Hamilton said NPS can’t buy it, the City has to, under the law. “But it’s something that, you know, we would certainly want to put on as a possibility.”

NPS will see how it goes this year, he said. “If it works as successfully as we think it’s going to and as we expect it’s going to, then, you know, looking at a future purchase certainly is something that I think the district would be interested in.”

“In light of any capital improvements that we made to the site, and the fact that it’s really well located in a central, inaccessible place, you know, hopefully that would be taken into consideration,” Hosten said.

Norwalk Board of Education member Diana Carpio called the timing perfect because hopefully everyone is coming back to school in-person after the pandemic, “and I know that a lot of families, especially new ones, even current families, too, have lots of questions, how things are going to work. “They’re going to need help. So having it centralized during this time, is perfect timing.”

Hosten said, “I have a good feeling about it.”

9 comments

Brad Craighead June 11, 2021 at 6:24 am

Welcome to the Norwalk Green Neighborhood – Norwalk Public Schools “Welcome Center” !

Certainly sounds like lots of new activity in what’s already an extremely busy area and now designated to corral newcomers who will be DRIVING and WALKING around the Neighborhood.

As a “one-stop shop” – it’s been described as a “Family Center” down the street from City Hall.

The Norwalk Green Neighborhood already desperately needed a PEDESTRIAN PLAN – hopefully this PEOPLE MAGNET will provide the catalyst for a change in thinking and urgency to ensure the MOBILITY & SAFETY for all in this iconic part of the City overlooking The Green.

Wonderful that this marquis building and location can be re-purposed to fill such a critical need for all of Norwalk – let’s use it as an opportunity to address an issue that’s been deferred for eons.

Bradford P. Craighead
Norwalk Green Association

Norwalker June 11, 2021 at 9:29 am

Wow, such an appropriate use of Covid relief funds! A prime example of the poor spending habits and miss leading information by government officials and politicians of our tax dollars.

Anne Sullivan June 11, 2021 at 1:53 pm

It would be fabulous if we could receive and additional Family Resource Center grant and operate that out of the new building as well.

Anyone else... June 11, 2021 at 3:02 pm

wondering what the heck a family center is? And what does that have to do with schools? Seems like a future drain on already scant resources. I foresee burning through the covid funding, then having to commit to long term employment of union employees who sit behind desks of pamphlets that could easily be found online.

The Financial Cliff June 11, 2021 at 4:11 pm

This NPS administration continues to spend, despite what it claims to be an inadequate operating budget. With regard to that, the administration also warns of a financial cliff, over which the district will fall once the COVID funds have disappeared. If they don’t want to fall off a cliff, they need to stop climbing it.

Norwalker June 12, 2021 at 12:26 pm

As others have already stated, how does the fiscally irresponsible NPS plan on funding this and the staff salaries when COVID money runs dry?

Not so non partisan June 12, 2021 at 5:24 pm

I think I this is in anticipation of the many many new students we will be welcoming into our school system.

We just have to look back to the 2010-2015 student population surge and what’s happening at our southern boarder

Welcome to Norwalk

Norwalk Resident For Not Much Longer June 14, 2021 at 4:24 pm

Spend millions of dollars on a “welcome center” that is not needed. Seems like everyone did just find for 50+ years without one. One would think that in the age of the internet, there is absolutely no need to have a physical location to hand out what amounts to informational pamphlets when they could be uploaded online for anyone to access at anytime from ANYWHERE.

How about instead of spending millions on this complete waste of money that no one legitimately needs, you spend the money on fixing up the schools. Or better yet, complete some of the “deferred maintenance” that NPS loves to just put off.

The majority of the schools in Norwalk are really in bad shape and its from years and years of deferring maintenance. NPS officials, and the Board, just love pet projects that serve no legitimate purpose and then cry a couple years down the line that they dont have the money in the budget to fix something that should have been fixed years ago. Better yet, that $50k fix 2 years ago has now ballooned into $200k. This is just an example but it is exactly how these officials think. Not a single one of them are any good at their job and all they want to do is spend money. The town literally denied them the money for the “welcome center” this year and now because they got extra money through COVID stimulus (hello US Treasury printing money and causing inflation), instead of putting it to good use they want to increase what will have to spent down the road.

NPS “Welcome Center” is something that could be accomplished, in a significantly more effective way by making it online. It will lead to more NPS unionized employees collecting annual raises and generous benefits at the expense of every Norwalk citizen who doesnt work for NPS. Whatever the actual number is that they plan on spending on the utterly ridiculous project will be 30% greater in 5 years, there will be no COVID stimulus money, and these same people will be crying for more money 5 years down the road and then saying ITS ABOUT THE KIDS!!!!

every single field in Norwalk is a disgrace, most NPS buildings could use at least $50k worth of simple paint and general maintenance that they wont get, but hey, lets build a NPS Welcome center!!!!

what a total disgrace NPS and the BoE have become.

Janine June 14, 2021 at 5:52 pm

Considering that almost all the schools, especially the elementary, do not have air conditioning. In this day and age the schools must close down for “heat days”.

Unfreaking believable.

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