On Wednesday morning, Peck Place School students rode the school bus to their temporary home at Yale West Campus.
The public elementary school located in Orange, Conn. was severely damaged in early January when a pipe burst and the resulting water damage exposed asbestos in the adhesive holding down the floor tiles. The building needed an emergency abatement, and school officials began searching for a site where students could attend class while the building was under repair. Yale University agreed to house the students in the Office Complex South at 400 West Campus Drive, an unoccupied building in Yale’s West Campus. For the past three weeks, Yale facilities and security have been working closely with the school district to transform office cubicles into classrooms.
Yale facilities cleared out the first, second and third floors of the building to allow Peck Place administrators to bring in their furniture, school supplies and records. But Superintendent of Orange Public Schools Lynn McMullin explained that the relocation was more complicated then simply packing up furniture and moving into a new building. Because the space was meant to be an office, not a school, the security system had to be adjusted and new spaces, including a gym, a cafeteria and a library needed to be created to serve the K-6 children.
“Essentially, it was like building a school from scratch,” Peck Place School Principal Eric Carbone wrote in a Tuesday email to the News. “Every process and protocol that we take for granted in our school had to be designed. From bus arrival to walking in the stairwell to teaching in open space, every detail had to be examined and then articulated.”
When Peck School first closed down, the students were divided by bus route to attend classes at either Turkey Hill School or Race Brook School — two nearby schools in Orange. Since Jan. 7, Peck Place teachers have been co-teaching classes with teachers from those schools, and each classroom has accommodated about ten Peck students. Carbone said despite the difficulties of this arrangement, there are also positive side effects, such as exposing students to different teaching styles and reuniting children who play on town sports teams together.
However, in looking for a more permanent location, school officials hoped to reunite the 374 students in one building. In a letter to Peck Place families, McMullin detailed the criteria for the new building, including safe bus drop-off, phone service, fire alarms and playground space. McMullin explained that other organizations in Orange besides Yale, including the Greek Orthodox Church on Racebrook Road, were willing to take in the students but simply were not large enough to hold the entire student body. The district ultimately settled on Yale because it met most of the school’s criteria.
“I think it’s just a tremendous relief to have the kids all back in one space with their teachers and principals,” McMullin said after the move.
The University is not charging Peck Place School for using its space, but Yale will be reimbursed for utility and maintenance costs, West Campus Communication and Administrative Service Manager Danica Kelly said in a Wednesday email to the News. She added that the University is happy to house the students for the rest of the school year while their building is repaired.
West Campus can easily accommodate the 374 students and 50 teachers and staff of the Peck Place Elementary School, Kelly wrote, adding that the University is happy to help the school during its “time of need.”
Peck Place School was founded in 1969.