School plans detailed in '98 meeting, but little said since

The Shawano Leader/October 14, 2004
By Tim Ryan

Plans for an international boarding school in the Town of Wescott were first detailed during three meetings of the Wescott Zoning and Planning Committee in 1998 when Dr. R.C. Samanta Roy requested a rezoning of his residential property on Frailing Road.

According to the minutes of those meetings, representatives of Samanta Roy told the committee that the ultimate plan was for a K-12 facility that would be housed in three buildings on 110 acres of property owned by Samanta Roy.

They said the school would emphasize math, science and engineering - with foreign languages to be added at some point - and would be the only one of its kind in the Midwest.

The school, which would be strictly secular, would cater to gifted students and be a non-profit venture. Representatives said there was a tremendous need for such a school, fashioned like the prestigious East Coast schools, to be located in the Midwest.

Expectations were that the maximum number of students that could be accommodated was 1,200, with 300 employees on the staff.

Sketches showed that the campus would stretch across Highway H to the south with a proposed skywalk to be built over the road. Two buildings were to be located on the south side, one housing kindergarten through third grade, and the other housing fourth through eighth grade. A high school was to be located north of the highway. The dimensions of the buildings were described as 200x200 feet.

Town Chairman Mike Schuler said Monday while reviewing the sketch that he recalled representatives saying there would also be dormitories located at the northern end of the property. They are not shown on the sketch.

The committee tabled the matter twice before taking it up again in November 1998, at which time GIS and air photo maps were presented showing approximate locations and sizes of buildings, and driveway and sidewalk locations, according to minutes from that meeting.

The committee ultimately voted to recommend that the request for the zoning change be denied. The following reasons were listed in the minutes:

Not enough project information was provided.

The proposed project and reason for the zone change would have too great an impact on the township because of the large number of students and faculty.

The zone change would be unfair to nearby residents because it would devalue their property.

The request includes too large an area for the amount of proposed construction.

The area is already zoned so that the project could take place with the issuance of a Conditional Use Permit rather than a rezoning of the entire block of land.

According to Schuler, the group has never returned to the Zoning and Planning Committee with any alternative proposal for the school.

Bert Grover, of Educational Consulting Services Ltd., said the consulting firm was approached by representatives of Samanta Roy's group for advice about building a school. He said the group insinuated during one of its presentations before the committee that it was working with the consulting firm.

Grover sent town officials a letter clarifying that situation.

"We had no contact with them," Grover told the Leader in a recent interview. "We had a couple of discussions describing & how you created a school. So I wrote that letter to make sure the Town Board knew we had no professional or contractual relationship."

Grover said the meetings were informal and held in a coffee shop, and that representatives of the group asked questions such as what it might cost to build a school and how it would be organized.

"I think they were just trying to tap our pool of knowledge and weren't intending to retain us," Grover said.

"They were researching and exploring and they took a lot of notes," he said. "I think they were neophytes with a goal and purpose of trying to meet the long range goal of some sort of science technology school, although they were talking about a residential elementary school which seemed to me highly impractical."

Grover said he doubted parents would send their children away to a residential school in the second grade.

The group has said it still plans to build the school and that commercial properties it has purchased are intended to eventually fund its construction and operation.

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