NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck High School athletes used to run on a track that had long stretches of rubberized material missing; they tried to avoid those areas so as to prevent injuries.
The same athletes used to get changed in locker rooms that had missing ceiling tiles, chipped floors and broken lockers.
And they used to learn in classrooms that had beat-up old chalkboards and broken desks.
No more. That was the old Naugy High. The school is now undergoing a massive renovate-to-new project slated to run through 2015, and as the first phase wraps up, people are getting a chance to see what the $80 million price tag is buying. So far, they like what they see.
“We’re already seeing students have a little bounce in their step,” Principal Jan Saam said. “They are so excited about the newly renovated parts of the school; each time a new section is anticipated to come online, they get excited. They tell me all the time that they want to come to school now. … I think it will really enhance the feel, the culture and the climate at the high school.”
In February, the school opened the doors to the new south wing, formerly the Goodyear House, which had 15 new classrooms with state-of-the-art technology in the world languages and biology departments. The classrooms have SmartBoard technology, and teachers can amplify their voices over an audio system. Gone are the old chalkboards, as cleaner dry-erase boards have taken their place.
One of the most impressive rooms in the building is a world languages lab that has 30 desktops with computers for each student. Every computer is equipped with a program called Sony Virtuoso, which allows teachers to listen to students who are practicing their languages using microphones and headsets, and give immediate feedback.
Phase one of the four-phase project also includes new nurses’ stations and offices for administration.
And the athletic wing is nearly complete. A new seating area for the swimming pool has been completed, allowing spectators to sit above the pool and look down at swimmers. Some swim parents complained about beams being in the way of their sight lines, and the seats being too high to see one lane of the pool, when the original seating area was constructed in the fall. So the building committee took $100,000 out of its contingency budget to add about 40 seats and make the beams smaller, allowing for better visibility.
The nearby workout facility has state-of-the-art athletic training equipment, including exercise bikes, running machines, weight machines, weight racks, free-weight stations and other amenities; it looks less like a high school workout center and more like one that requires a paid membership.
There is also a dance room with portions overlooking the basketball court, while the auxiliary gym has been remodeled along with all of the locker rooms.
The exterior of the athletics area has been remodeled with glass and brick, giving a welcoming feel, as opposed to the former beige facade, which many said looked like the outside of a prison.
The football and soccer teams and the band all enjoyed the new synthetic field turf in the fall, while the baseball and softball teams will play games on their new synthetic turf fields but will not practice there this season.
The track and field team will compete on a new world-class, eight-lane track, which will allow the teams to hold championship meets at the school for the first time.
“Last year you could see pieces of the track coming up all over the place; this is so much nicer,” said senior track runner Caitlyn Colella.
Senior track runner Josh Bierly said the old track was “falling apart; this one has no flaws on it.”
Coach Bill Hanley said he’s optimistic the new track will help the athletes’ legs, “because even on the coldest days, it has a lot of cushion to it.”
And while runners are looking for better times on the track, borough officials are looking at different numbers.
“It looks amazing … it’s one thing to look at blueprints, but to look at it in person is quite different,” Mayor Robert Mezzo said. “And it’s on time and under budget, which is also important.”