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NLS, foundation pondering what project to pursue next

NEW LONDON -- Coming off a recent project helping the Little Theatre in New London "go green," New London-Spicer Public Schools and the New London-Spicer Educational Foundation are debating what project to start next.

Superintendent Paul Carlson said Thursday the education foundation met the School Board Monday prior to its regular meeting to share a few ideas for projects the two parties could pursue.

The New London-Spicer Education Foundation is a nonprofit organization, created in 2006, that raises money for programs that enhance student learning and staff development. Last year, the foundation fundraised for the Little Theatre of New London's energy efficiency project. A major portion of the project involved re-insulation of the theater and adding new light fixtures.

In the past, the foundation also assisted with improvements at Green Lake Diamonds in Spicer and donated about $40,000 toward mini grants for district teachers, Carlson said.

Although the district and foundation haven't decided on any particular project yet, there are a couple ideas in the mix, Carlson said. One project the parties mentioned Monday, he said, is the creation of a performing arts center for the district's students. The district has considered this project for the last couple years.

Funding a new district theater would be a long term goal, Carlson said, but it would involve many steps, starting with a feasibility study determining whether a new theater is necessary.

However, a large amount of funding would be needed for a new theater, Carlson said, and the education foundation could help with that.

"The foundation could be that tool that could help in terms of accepting any contributions or major gifts," Carlson said. In certain cases, Carlson said, the district can't accept gifts or endowments, but the foundation can.

Carlson said the foundation also mentioned Monday the possibility of funding a technology project through the state's STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Initiative. The project would consist of adding a mobile computer lab, or "computers on wheels," for each of the district's buildings and modernizing the district's SMART Boards and sound systems.

"We're kind of establishing a wish list right now to see what would be a good project in the future," Carlson said.

"But one of the things the foundation is contemplating now is 'do we just work on mini grants or do we work on a special project?" Carlson said the mini grants for teachers tend to use up the foundation's funds it raises each year, making it difficult to assist a special project.

Carlson said the district will continue to meet with the foundation this year to decide what role the foundation will play toward the district's goals and any special project agreed upon.