Posted: Jul 23, 2021 7:00 AM
The school board voted at a special July 20 meeting to support a student relocation option for the 2022-23 school year upon completion of a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) project. from Hawley Elementary School.
“It’s definitely the best [option] for children,” said education board vice-chairman Dan Delia after deciding to approve the option over another that would have kept some students in school while the project was in progress. Classes. “It’s the safest, healthiest and most conducive to learning. I fully support this motion.
As stated previously in The Newtown BeeSuperintendent of Schools Dr. Lorrie Rodrigue described both “option one” and “option two” to complete the Hawley HVAC project at the July 6 board meeting.
The first option would cost approximately $7.1 million and would be completed in a single phase, with students and staff moving to Sandy Hook Elementary School and Reed Middle School. It would take nine months. Option 2 would cost approximately $7.8 million, be multi-phased, require construction during the summer and school year, and some students would attend school in Hawley during the project.
Concerns with Option 2 include the need to relocate some students again, anticipated difficulties with buses and parking, and the fact that students are attending school at an active construction site.
The Public Building & Site Commission is overseeing the project, and the school board’s vote offered support for how it would like to see the project completed, assuming it is backed by voters in the referendum.
PBSC Chairman Robert Mitchell said The Newtown Bee that he was informed of the decision following the meeting, and it was “great news.”
“It’s already on our next agenda,” Mitchell said, anticipating a quick affirmation of what was his commission’s optimal choice to expedite completion of the Hawley project.
Following the July 20 school board vote, members reflected on the duration of the Hawley HVAC project.
“There really never is a perfect time, I understand that, but this project…has been in the works for at least 12 years, maybe 15,” said board member Rebekah Harriman-Stites. “And I think this project is going towards a safe and healthy learning environment for our students in the long term, so I think of all the options we have, this is the best possible option.”
A quick peek through Newtown bee the archives found an October 2002 article, “Districtwide Committee To Look At HVAC Study”.
This story reported that five schools – Hawley Elementary School, Head O’ Meadow Elementary School, Middle Gate Elementary School, Newtown Middle School and Sandy Hook School – needed heating and ventilation upgrades. In December 2005 The Newtown Bee reported, “The school board has spent much of the year struggling to prioritize major issues, including Hawley Elementary School’s under-budgeted heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) project and the high school population explosion.
The project took so long to come about because it changed so drastically in scope and estimated costs over time. Once the Hawley project is complete, Middle Gate and Newtown Middle School will be online for HVAC upgrades.
Hawley Principal Christopher Moretti spoke about the student relocation plan for the duration of the HVAC project at the July 20 meeting. He and Dr. Rodrigue shared that they visited Sandy Hook School and Reed Middle School to see where Hawley students would be housed.
Moretti noted that the district has a year to prepare for the project and stressed the importance of having a committee that looks at all angles of its completion. The project, if carried out with option 1, is expected to take place from June 2022 to April 2023.
“Hopefully there’s very little difficulty, very little trouble, and before you know it, we’re back home,” Moretti said.
Education journalist Eliza Hallabeck can be reached at [email protected]