Years of stalled plans and rising costs have left some Wilton residents suspicious of a recently proposed plan to renovate the Miller-Driscoll school. The leaders of Sensible Wilton say their newly formed group hopes to vocalize concerns, both fiscal and educational, about the proposed $50-million renovation of the school. Stressing that his group is not \u201canti-schools,\u201d member Ken Dartley said Sensible Wilton is more focused on helping the town make a good school \u2014 not just an expensive one. \u201cWe need a long-range plan for schools in Wilton, where the key focus is the children, not architectural beauty,\u201d he said. \u201cThe children should be able to learn well, and should be safe.\u201d In the end, he said, the project may cost even more than $50 million, something he sees as acceptable so long as the right combination of amenities and improvements are put in place. \u201cWe need to look at both the tax bill and the quality of education,\u201d he said. The two largest problems at the school, members of Sensible Wilton say, are an aging HVAC system and deteriorating roof. The problems have been known since at least 2007, but there has yet to be any substantive measures taken to correct the issues. Group members says they wonder why the building committee is willing to let students pass through Miller-Driscoll for another two to three years without fixing the systems, which the group says is causing students to become ill. \u201cIt may seem strange to fix something right before you tear it down, but it may be what we need to do,\u201d Mr. Dartley said. Cost escalation since the first acknowledgment of the roof and HVAC problems is a large part of the group\u2019s opposition to the school, members say. In 2009, the town estimated it would cost approximately $10 million to replace aging roofing, siding, and HVAC systems. Now, saying the school is in urgent need of widespread repairs, that number has climbed to $50 million, with the new project providing significantly more changes than the initial project. \u201cWe\u2019re not against the Miller-Driscoll plan, per se,\u201d said group member Joe Brenner. \u201cWe\u2019re against how they are going about it. We\u2019re not anti-schools, we\u2019re pro good schools, and good buildings. How did we get to those solutions before\u201d at such a lower cost? At Middlebrook, he continued to say, it cost $3 million to renovate the roof and HVAC system. Now at Miller-Driscoll, the town is planning to spend $50 million on a nearly new school. \u201cHow did that happen?\u201d Mr. Brenner said. One of the main reasons the building committee has given for the expansion is to accommodate a growing special needs preschool population. Sensible Wilton members say there should be a closer look at serving preschool children off-site in an already-existing building such as the old Gilbert & Bennett school in Georgetown or the Comstock Community Center, where a preschool once existed. Wants and needs According to the group, those leading the design of the project have become too focused on \u201cwants,\u201d rather than \u201cneeds\u201d of the town\u2019s youngest children. For instance, group member Curt Noel said last week, the proposed architectural redesign at Miller-Driscoll to improve \u201cline-of-sight\u201d and the flow of student movement at the school \u2014 which has been justification for demolishing the pre-existing preschool pod \u2014 is a large-ticket item that is not necessary. \u201cThe pod is the best built part of the school,\u201d he said. \u201cNone of the Miller-Driscoll Building Committee has ever had a child in the school \u2014 past or present \u2014 and the architecture firm is obviously unfamiliar with the school. It can be a bit confusing at first, but \u2018line-of-sight\u2019 is not what\u2019s really needed.\u201d \u201cWe\u2019ve moved off of the HVAC system and the roof,\u201d two aspects of the school Mr. Noel and the rest of Sensible Wilton feel are true necessities. Instead of \u201ctearing down the best-built pod\u201d to get a clear line of sight, group member Alex Ruskewich asked, why not just install a closed-circuit surveillance system? \u201cWill the line of sight be improved by knocking down the pod [versus closed-circuit cameras]?\u201d he asked. While the school building committee suggests the removal of the playground from the front to the rear of the school, members of the group also question that plan. \u201cIt\u2019s a smaller space, there are no open fields, it\u2019s sloped, and there\u2019s bad drainage,\u201d Mr. Noel said, citing research conducted by Wilton resident Marissa Lowthert. \u201cIt also reduces visibility of the children and reduces adult supervision.\u201d In today\u2019s STEM-focused academic environments, the group also feels the lack of a science room in the new building is foolish. \u201cTo reduce science teaching today is criminal,\u201d Mr. Noel said.