Lyme-Old Lyme to Consider Cost of Renovating Schools to ‘As New’

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LYME-OLD LYME — On Thursday night, the architecture firm QA + M presented the initial findings of its study of the Lyme-Old Lyme Public Schools. In June, the district approved a contract with the Farmington-based firm for $45,850 to evaluate the need for improvements to Mile Creek, Lyme School, Center school, as well as the district middle school. The study was paid for with federal funding.  At the meeting, Rusty Malik, a principal at QA +M and Angela Cahill, an architect for the firm, discussed the current conditions of the buildings and offered suggestions about how the district could address

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Shoreline Schools Report High Staff Vaccination Rates

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Shoreline schools across eastern Connecticut are reporting high rates of compliance with Gov. Ned Lamont’s vaccine mandates, according to numbers provided by the  districts.  Lamont signed an executive order in September requiring that all K-12 teachers and staff and childcare workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they are approved for a medical or religious exemption. School employees are allowed to opt-out of the vaccination, but must undergo weekly testing for the virus.  All the employees listed under the order were required to receive the first dose of a vaccine by September 27,  Of the districts stretching from Waterford to Guilford

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Connecticut Lawmakers Convene Panel on Healthcare Cost Strategies

If the cost of food in the United States had increased since the Second World War at the same rate as healthcare, a dozen oranges would cost $57, a gallon of milk $160. That’s according to Katherine Gudiksen, a senior health policy researcher for The Source on Healthcare Price and Competition, a project of the University of California Hastings College of the Law. Gudiksen was one of six researchers, government officials and policy experts who presented to a bipartisan group of Connecticut state legislators on strategies that can be used to lower the cost of healthcare — and, by extension,

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Child Marijuana Poisonings Expected to Jump, UConn Wants Funding for the Response

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In a phone call with CT Examiner, Dr. Suzanne Doyon, medical director at the Connecticut Poison Control Center, discussed a request to fund two additional positions in an anticipation of a significant rise in child poisonings given the recent legalization of recreational marijuana. Doyon said she was most concerned about an increase in small children ingesting edibles, which she said make up about half the calls the center receives each year.  Even before the legalization, Doyon said, calls had been on the rise.  “I’m just concerned because children being admitted to the ICU… it’s just not fun,” she said.  Doyon

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Republicans and Democrats on Old Saybrook Police Commission Debate Privacy, Oversight

OLD SAYBROOK — Claiming the need to exercise oversight, Democrats on the Old Saybrook Police Commission refused to turn over copies of a complaint against the town’s police department, despite Republican commissioners and Chief of Police Michael Spera insisting that keeping copies of the document violated the right of victims to privacy.    Copies of the complaint were sent to Town Hall addressed to each of the commissioners by name according to commission member Alfred “Chub” Wilcox.  At a meeting of the commission on Monday, Chair Frank Keeney requested that all of the commissioners return their copies of the complaint to

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Local Manufacturers Encourage Robotics Classes in Westbrook Public Schools

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WESTBROOK — At 8:30 a.m. on a Friday morning, seventeen teenagers huddled around lab tables in the back of a science classroom trying to prompt a half-dozen crablike blinking robots to wake up and move their legs.  Screws and plastic robotic legs are scattered across the table, along with a stray Dunkin Donuts bag and a bottle of Coke. Laptops are open to tutorial videos for robot-building (and the occasional soccer game being watched on the sly). Blue boxes filled with robot parts, user manuals and makeshift cardboard stands are labeled with group names. The Martian Manhunters. The Flying Crab. 

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‘I’ve … Started to See This Very, Very Dark Side of the Regime’

In 25 years of writing about Africa, journalist Michela Wrong said that her latest book is the one that has given her nightmares.  “I think this has been the most intimidating of the books I’ve written,” said Wrong. “It has literally made me wake up screaming in the night.” Her latest book, Do Not Disturb, recounts the brutal murder of Patrick Karegeya, Rwanda’s former head of external intelligence, who was strangled in a hotel room in Johannesburg, South Africa, on New Year’s Eve 2014. She uses the murder to challenge a storyline espoused by current Rwandan President Paul Karagame and

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Guilford’s New Family Equity Liaison Rydell Harrison Goes On The Record

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Dr. Rydell Harrison, Guilford’s new Family Equity Liaison, has an eclectic taste in music. He’s a pianist and a classically trained singer. He says he likes every musical genre except country.  Harrison, who started his new job with Guilford last Tuesday, began his 22-year education career as a music teacher. He said he found his true passion not only in music itself, but in sharing it with students.  “I’m one of these people who believes that teachers have such an incredible impact on students,” said Harrison.  After receiving a degree in music education at Rutgers University, he went on to

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Conservative Caucus Hears Public Fears of Mandated Vaccination in the Workplace

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HARTFORD — About 50 people who have opted not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine convened at the State Capitol on Wednesday afternoon to testify at a public hearing about how that decision has affected their ability to work.  The legislature’s Conservative Caucus organized the hearing. State Rep. Mike France, R-Ledyard, chair of the caucus, said that the purpose of the meeting was to hear the stories of people who are being affected by mandates requiring vaccination.  “The recent requirements for vaccination in order to maintain employment have raised concerns in the public,” France said. “We are here to hear from

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Candidates for Madison Board of Ed Weigh $85 Million School Plan

MADISON — All six Republican and Democratic candidates for the town’s Board of Education agree that the district’s school buildings need a major upgrade. The current Board of Education has outlined a four-part, $85 million school infrastructure plan, which includes constructing a new pre-kindergarten to fifth grade elementary school, closing Jeffrey and Ryerson Elementary Schools and the Town Campus Learning Center, converting Brown Intermediate School into a kindergarten to fifth grade school and renovating Polson Middle School. That plan will be put to a vote at a February 2022 townwide referendum. In interviews with CT Examiner, the candidates voiced support

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Little Rebound from Dramatic COVID Declines for Eastern Connecticut Schools

Public school enrollments along the eastern shoreline of Connecticut aren’t showing the rebounding numbers some expected after dramatic declines during the pandemic. In a review of preliminary enrollment data for districts stretching between Guilford and New London, school officials reported generally disappointing numbers. Last year, Guilford schools lost 154 students — nearly as many as the district lost over the previous five years combined — but gained back just 11 students this year. Old Saybrook similarly reported a gain this year of 14 students, after losing 121 students last year during the pandemic. Waterford, which lost 102 students last year,

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Madison Releases Plans for New Elementary School

MADISON — School officials released the first draft of a plan for the new Jeffrey Elementary School building at a Board of Education meeting on Tuesday.  The plan is part of a $85 million building project that includes constructing a new pre-kindergarten to fifth grade elementary school, closing Jeffrey and Ryerson Elementary Schools and the Town Campus Learning Center, converting Brown Intermediate School into a kindergarten to fifth grade school and renovating Polson Middle School. According to the document, the building will include space for 600 Pre-K through fifth grade students. Dan Hansen, an independent educational consultant and former assistant

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‘Equity Analysis’ Draws Praise of East Lyme School Officials

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EAST LYME — Superintendent of East Lyme Public Schools Jeffrey Newton praised the results of a district-wide audit by the not-for-profit Equity Institute that solicited feedback from students, parents and staff. The Rhode-Island-based group was hired by the district in April 2021 to perform an “equity analysis” on the district, and presented its results to the town’s Board of Education on Monday. Newton said the district chose the group, which asked $15,000 for their work, based on positive experiences with two other districts in the neighboring state. “We liked what they had to offer and what they were sharing for

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Slate Opposing Critical Race Theory Sweeps Guilford Primary in Heavy Turnout

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GUILFORD — Candidates running in opposition to Critical Race Theory once again swept the Republican slate in a primary on Tuesday night. As of 7:30 p.m. — thirty minutes before polls closed — 47 percent of 3,511 registered Republicans had come out to vote. Republican Registrar of Voters Gloria Nemczuk called the turnout “incredible.” Four years ago, she said, the turnout for the primary for first selectman was 29 percent. Danielle Scarpellino, Tim Chamberlain, Nick Cusano, Bill Maisano and Aly Passarelli – who formed a campaign called “5 Reasons Why”. – received between 1,275 and 1,265 votes each.  Their opponents

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Jazz Pianist Larry Fuller to Play The Side Door on Saturday

Jazz pianist Larry Fuller, who plays at The Side Door in Old Lyme on Saturday, chose Stevie Wonder’s 1985 hit song “Overjoyed” — the story of an as-yet unrequited love — as the title song for his new album, which offers of mix of Wonder, Wes Montgomery, George Gershwin, Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown and a few original compositions.  Fuller said the song is emblematic of one of his goals as a musician — to bring joy to the audience.  “What I try to do when I play music is just to bring joy,” said Fuller. “Sometimes music and especially jazz

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COVID Cases Spike at Conn College, But Without Hospitalizations

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NEW LONDON — Connecticut College reported that 169 of its students tested positive for COVID-19 last week, after several gatherings in crowded spaces that led to a “chain reaction” of viral spread, according to epidemiologists from the Department of Public Health.   The number represents the highest cases reported in a single week at Connecticut College since the college began regularly testing students for COVID-19 in August of 2020. The students are tested twice weekly.  Victor Arcelus, dean of students at the college, said in a message to the community on Saturday that the college was starting to show a downward

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Madison Police to Appeal Release of Evidence from Barbara Beach Hamburg Murder

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The Madison Police Department is appealing a court ruling upholing an order by the state’s Freedom of Information Commission that the department release all records — except signed witness statements — related to the unsolved murder of Barbara Beach Hamburg. Her death in 2010 was the subject of an HBO true crime documentary series produced by her son Madison Hamburg.   In a meeting of the town’s Board of Police Commissioners on Thursday evening, Police Chief John Drumm said that if the courts ultimately ruled in favor of releasing the records, it could create a precedent that would affect police

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Connecticut Approves Rate Hikes for Health Insurance

The Connecticut Department of Insurance on Friday approved increases on health insurance premiums of 5.6 percent for individuals and 6.7 percent for small group plans in the year 2022. ConnectiCare Benefits Inc., which covers 81,000 people on its on-exchange individual plans, will be allowed to raise premiums an average of 5.5 percent, a decrease from the originally requested 7.4 percent.  In its final filing with the Department of Insurance, ConnectiCare said the company expected increased behavioral health costs in 2022 and ongoing costs of COVID-19 vaccination. It said that a bill passed in the legislature that will cap the cost

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State Auditors Release a Scathing Report on the State Department of Correction

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The State Department of Correction has paid its employees excessive overtime and union leave while neglecting training requirements and annual performance reviews, according to a recent audit report from the state.  According to the report, which reviewed the activities of the Department of Correction for the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years, documentation was either missing or not properly approved for 72 of the 124 hours of compensatory time that the auditors reviewed. The auditors also found instances of undocumented medical leave and a lack of documentation and overpayments for workers earning overtime.  In particular, the auditors discovered 122 employees who

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As Region 4 Retires Debt, School Officials Contemplate Ambitious Borrowing for Athletics

REGION 4 — A turf field, a cross country trail, repairs to tennis courts and renovations of the soccer and baseball fields are a few of the possible middle school and high school athletic projects being considered by the Board of Education that together could cost as much as $11.3 million, though the board is expected to approve significantly less spending. At a meeting of the Board of Education on Tuesday, Superintendent Brian White said that the needs of the district’s athletic program should be considered alongside a review of the school facilities. Earlier in May, White suggested that only

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Madison Students Buck Statewide Trend, Show Gains in Learning Last Year

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New standardized test data for students enrolled at public schools in Madison buck widespread declines by school districts across the state, when compared to 2018-19 test scores. According to state data from the Smarter Balanced Assessment, 69 percent of students in grades 3 to 8 in Madison performed at grade level in English in the year 2018-19. Remarkably, that number rose to 73.2 percent for students learning fully in-person for 2019-20. The number of students learning at grade level in math rose as well, from 66.8 percent to 69.2 percent last year.  Craig Cooke, superintendent of schools in Madison, said

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Connecticut’s Health Insurers Ask for Steep Rate Hikes

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Health insurers, in a hearing with the State of Connecticut Insurance Department on Tuesday, blamed lingering COVID-19 costs, an increased use of specialty drugs and a return to pre-pandemic demand for healthcare as reasons to significantly increase health insurance premiums for 2022.  Anthem Health Plans, which covers 1.2 million members across the state, has asked for an average increase of 12.3 percent in premiums for its individual plans, which cover 28,000 people, and 11.5 percent for its small group plans, which cover 25,500 people. The company also covers a large number of individuals by providing plans to large corporate clients. 

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Local Leaders Discuss Dramatic Declines in the Number of Young People in Connecticut

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According to the latest national census data, Chester, Deep River and Essex experienced dramatic declines in the number of residents under the age of 18 living in the towns — a drop that leaves local leaders with little to offer in the way of solutions. In Deep River, the loss of young residents since 2010 totals 25 percent — from 975 to 735. Chester experienced a drop of 29 percent. And in Essex, where there were 1,390 children living in the town in 2010, now there are just 949 — a drop of 32 percent. Deep River First Selectman Angus

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Test Scores Show Clear Advantage of Classroom Learning over Remote Models

According to data released on Tuesday by the state’s Department of Education, primary and secondary students studying remotely and in hybrid models last year lagged significantly in standardized test scores measuring achievement in math and English compared to students who learned in a classroom setting. Data drawn from Smarter Balanced Assessments, Connecticut’s standardized test for students in grades 3 to 8, showed that remote learners in Connecticut at these grade levels showed a 15.6 percent decrease in English proficiency and a 25.7 percent decrease in math proficiency last year compared to their peers in 2018-19. Students enrolled in hybrid learning

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Old Lyme Candidates for Board of Education Speak to the Issues

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As Lyme-Old Lyme’s Board of Education prepares for a sizable turnover in November, slates endorsed by the Democrats and Republicans took questions from CT Examiner about their spending priorities, about communicating with the public, the teaching of History and measures needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Four incumbent members of the Board — Richard Goulding (D), Stacey Leonardo (R), Jean Wilczynski (D) and chair Diane Linderman (D) — are not seeking re-election. The Old Lyme Democrats have endorsed incumbent Martha Shoemaker (D) and newcomers Alexander Lowry (D), Marisa Calvi-Rogers (D) and Jason Kemp (D). The Old Lyme Republicans have

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Low Vaccination Rates, Easy Exemptions Raise Concerns at Connecticut Colleges

Less than half of the students enrolled at the Connecticut State Community Colleges and 40 percent of students enrolled at the Connecticut State Universities have provided information about their vaccination status for COVID-19, despite a mandate put in place by the Board of Regents in June. Leigh Appleby, director of communications for the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, told CT Examiner that, as of August 19, just over 14,200 of the approximately 32,800 currently enrolled at the Community Colleges have “attested” to having at least one dose of the vaccine. As of August 9, Appleby said that  8,870 of the

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Police Commission Votes to Replace German Shepherd with Labrador Retriever

OLD SAYBROOK — The town’s Police Commission voted unanimously Monday night to accept Chief Michael Spera’s proposal to sell one of the department’s German Shepherds to his former handler and replace him with a Labrador Retriever.  The dog’s handler, Patrolman Jared White, is leaving the Old Saybrook Police force. Spera said that at the present time, no other officers were willing to take charge of the dog, and that it was uncertain whether or not the dog could adapt to a new handler.  The canine, Sonny, is one of two German Shepherds that make up Old Saybrook’s K-9 unit. Sonny

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As Henri Blows in, Shoreline Towns Issue Evacuation Orders, Open Shelters

Several shoreline Connecticut towns are under mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders in preparation for Hurricane Henri, which is expected to make landfall on Sunday.  The National Weather Service has issued a Hurricane Watch for Henri from New Haven over to Westport, Mass., and Block Island. Rainfall is expected to start along the coast between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. Sunday. Henri is make landfall Sunday evening as a Category 1 Hurricane with a storm surge that could reach 5 feet.  Madison’s Board of Selectmen issued a mandatory evacuation order on Saturday for all residents in Madison who live South of

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Sustainable CT and the Town of Your Dreams

A Do-It-Yourself Bike Repair Program in Hartford and West Hartford. An electric vehicle charging station in Essex. COVID-safe farmers markets in Bridgeport and New Haven. Invasive plant management along the Connecticut River. And community gardens, murals, and tree planting in towns and cities across the state.  These are a few of the projects happening in Connecticut in partnership with the organization Sustainable CT. The non-profit guides communities through projects intended to make cities and towns more vibrant, environmentally friendly and socially conscious places to live.  The organization has existed since late 2017, and it created its first set of suggested

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Federal Aid Arrives as Shoreline Towns Report Budget Surpluses

Despite fears that the COVID-19 pandemic would leave towns scrambling to cover costs, Old Saybrook and East Lyme are each ending the 2020-21 fiscal year with more than $1 million of budget surplus.   Old Saybrook finance director Lee Ann Palladino said at a Board of Selectmen meeting on Wednesday that the town’s $1.5 million surplus is the result of strong revenues and an overall drop in expenses.  Anna Johnson, the finance director in East Lyme, described a similar situation. She said East Lyme had a $1.15 million surplus that would be placed in the town’s unassigned fund. Westbrook will also

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