Council approves student-run bookstore in Trumbull Center

Trumbull Schools Superintendent Martin Semmel speaks at the Sept. 9 town council meeting.

Trumbull Schools Superintendent Martin Semmel speaks at the Sept. 9 town council meeting.

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TRUMBULL — A proposed bookstore staffed by students with disabilities is one step closer to becoming reality after the town council unanimously approved a lease agreement for a Trumbull Center location.

The Sept. 9 vote followed a lengthy executive session. The members returned to public session and approved a five-year lease with Trumbull Center, LLC. The planned shop, to be named the Elite Bookstore, will not only be a fully functioning business but will also teach students work and life skills.

Council member Mary Isaac, D-1st, asked Superintendent Martin Semmel about a potential November opening, pending approval by the town’s Planning & Zoning Commission, which could take up the lease proposal later this month. Semmel confirmed the Board of Education planned to move quickly to get the store open.

“We would try to open this as we want to get into a soft opening as quickly as possible so we can give our students some real opportunities,” he said.

Tammy Hartman, the special education services director for the Trumbull schools, said the store would give students an education that would serve them well in life.

“One of the things that we love about this idea is the lifelong learning and literature that we want for all of our students,” Hartman said.

The bookstore had previously been discussed at the Aug. 31 meeting of the council’s Legislation and Administration Committee, where Hartman had touted the cost benefits of opening a bookstore. She said the store would help prevent out-placement of students, which can cost up to $100,000 per student, she said.

Hartman also discussed the process behind the store’s inception. She and others looked at examples from neighboring towns that had launched similar programs.

“There have been other bookstores one in Cheshire, which is ReRead Books, as well as one in Westport, where the store is based on totally donated products, and they have been hugely successful. We’ve done some site visits. We have also gone to Milford’s town hall, where they are running a cafe, and looked at the vocational opportunities for those students.”

Jason Marsh, D-3, the council’s majority leader, praised the school system’s ELITE (Educating Learners In Transition Environments) Program, which serves students with various disabilities.

“I wanted to echo support for the ELITE Program,” Marsh said. “As I said at committee, a very good friend of our daughter is a participant in the program. Hopefully she’s watching tonight, and I can’t say enough good things about her and the program.”

Ashley Gaudiano, D-4, called the proposed store a win-win for students and the town.

“I’m grateful to all of the staff, parents, community organizations and individuals who have taken this project on,” Gaudiano said.