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Former Haddam Elementary School is Coming Back to Life

Submitted by Bill Warner, Haddam Town Planner

(November 18, 2022) — I have been walking the halls of HES since the town took ownership almost three years ago.  It is so sad to see the empty classrooms and I often think, what a loss to the community to have this school shuttered. But gradually this is changing as we breathe new life into the building.

I recently helped set up a classroom for an HK Rec Art Smart program for toddlers. I went back the next day and the room was warm and cozy, the chalk boards were decorated and the tables were adorned with brightly colored tablecloths. Then, it happened: toddlers started marching in, ready for their art class. I cannot tell you how it touched my heart to see a classroom alive with little learners.

The building is quietly becoming a real asset to the community, and seeing those toddlers really got me thinking about all the good things that are happening at the school. I thought some of you might find it interesting.

The Higganum Farmers Market had another successful season. The Holiday Pop-Up Market, bigger and better than ever, is now open.

We have secured funding for a new roof and a new multi-generational playscape/activity space for kids and seniors.

The Pratt & Whitney Machinists Union often rents the building for meetings and important votes, the FBI and State Police train in the building. Emergency Management stores critical supplies in the building and recently there was a hazardous waste drop-off event. The Haddam Volunteer Fire Department has its annual picnic on the grounds.

Nutmeg Pharmacy has conducted flu and Covid-19 vaccine clinics. Once again, HK Youth and Family Services will be using a classroom for their Holiday Giving program. The Lions Club had a coat drive, the always-popular Grims Haunted House is stored in the building when not in use, and there was a recent food drive in the parking lot.

The Haddam Historical Society uses the former library for their annual auction and they will be moving the Shad Museum to the property. Shad fishing was one of the most important industries from Haddam’s past and this move will really spotlight this important part of the town’s history.

Blue Fire Stage Company uses the former Art and Music rooms for rehearsals for all of their shows and they offer kids acting, voice and dance classes. They put on well-attended shows in the multipurpose room, including The Laramie Project; An Evening of Inappropriate Song Cabarets; Schoolhouse Rock Live and, in February of 2023, the kids will be performing the musical Dear Edwina Jr. Blue Fire performers also sing carols during the holidays. They rehearse in the building and offer community performances. There was even a workshop with a famous Broadway star, Lisa Howard.

Homefield Sports, out of Essex, rents the gym three days a week for their kids basketball programs. This brings parents from all over the county to Higganum Center. The High School Girls Lacrosse team uses the gym for indoor winter conditioning. HK Rec offers programs throughout the year. More than 450 residents, from pre-schoolers to long-retired seniors, have participated. Some of the offerings have included CPR and First Aid training, Babysitting, Cool Science, Art Smart for Toddlers, Gymnastics, Indoor Soccer, Karate Kids, Kids Basketball Clinics, Men’s Basketball, Robotics, Zumba for kids and, of course, the wildly popular Pickleball.

Perhaps nothing can replace the energy that a couple of hundred elementary school students, their parents, their teachers and an engaged PTO can bring to the school and its surroundings. But I do believe with continued investment and programming, this property can become a major activity node in Higganum Center. The more people we can attract to the center will result in more economic activity. More economic activity will create more value. More value will attract more interest from other businesses wanting to be a part of a revitalizing Higganum Center.




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