Weston seniors contemplate center moving to North House

Weston seniors Gisela Ruthman and Barbara Gulchus enjoy the Monday morning knitting circle at the Weston Senior Center, which is currently in South House at Hurlbutt Elementary School. —Patricia Gay photo

Weston seniors Gisela Ruthman and Barbara Gulchus enjoy the Monday morning knitting circle at the Weston Senior Center, which is currently in South House at Hurlbutt Elementary School. —Patricia Gay photo

The Weston Senior Activities Center, located in South House at Hurlbutt Elementary School, is a happy place.

This past Monday, a number of members had gathered there — some were knitting, some were reading the newspaper, while others had dropped by to enjoy fresh-baked sugar cookies and have a chat with their friends and neighbors.

But the seniors understand that their time at this location may soon be over because the center could be moving to North House on the other side of the school. For some, that’s bittersweet.

The school board is expected to vote on a resolution to give up the first floor of North House to the town at its regular meeting on Dec. 17, according to Phil Schaefer, school board chairman.

To address some rumblings and rumors around town that the board may have changed its mind about the allocation to the town, Mr. Schaefer said that is not the case. “I see no compelling reason why we wouldn’t go forward with this. We’d make sure things are done properly and the board enters into a memorandum of understanding with the town,” he said.

The board is considering turning the space over to the town based on projections of declining school enrollment. The seniors would utilize approximately 5,000 square feet at North House, the same amount of space they currently have at South House. In addition, they would have access to a 2,200-square-foot gymnasium.

An additional 4,800 square feet on the first floor of North House would also be allocated to the town. First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said the selectmen will discuss how to use that space after they get a proposal from the schools.

In the meantime, she has mentioned the possibility of relocating some town offices to North House.

Superintendent Colleen Palmer told parents at a recent Hurlbutt PTO meeting that if the seniors move to North House, the plan would be to reclaim the Senior Center space at South House for use by kindergarten students.

Seniors weigh in

Seniors visiting the center on Monday were a bit apprehensive about the possible move, but they have not seen the space at North House.

They said they love the center at its present location at South House and want it to stay there. “A lot of work was done here by our members to make the space good for us, and we’d have to start all over again. I want to stay here,” said one senior who asked not be mentioned by name.

The center moved to South House from Norfield Congregational Church in 2006. It started out in two rooms, but in the past few years as more space opened up at Hurlbutt, the seniors were given use of a third room as well as a multi-purpose room when not needed by the schools.

The seniors had concerns about parking, and the costs of making the new space user-friendly. “It will cost money to install ramps and air conditioning. It’s taxpayers’ money, and we already have all that here. We’re comfortable here,” a senior said.

Bob Turner said the thing he would miss the most moving to North House would be the interaction the seniors currently have at South House with Hurlbutt students. He didn’t think they would interact as much at North House.

On the positive side, Mr. Turner said there may be more possibilities in the new space, such as room for a pool table, or a theater room.

Senior Center Director Wendy Petty, who has visited the space at North House, said she and assistant Pam Wilson will make the new space great.

“The space at North House should work out well. We’ll need a different parking area, but we’re happy to have the space and we’re good either way,” she said.

The school administration is holding a public informational session about North House on Tuesday, Dec. 11, at 7 p.m. at the Hurlbutt South House cafeteria. Superintendent Palmer, Assistant Superintendent Kenneth Craw, and Jo-Ann Keating, director of finance and operations, will be on hand to answer questions.

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