Region 16 committee to discuss new school

BEACON FALLS — The Region 16 Board of Education has authorized the formation of a building committee to begin the process of planning for a new elementary school on the Talmadge Hill Road property in Prospect.

The new school facility will replace Algonquin and Community Schools.

Additionally, the committee will address deferred maintenance, energy efficiency, and safety concerns at Laurel Ledge Elementary School in Beacon Falls.

The mission of the Region 16 Building Committee is to guide the district through the pre-referendum process and, upon a successful referendum, to work with the design team, architects, the State Department of Education’s facilities arm, and construction professionals to build a new elementary school for pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students and to make capital improvements in order to increase “educational efficiency” at Laurel Ledge School.

The building committee will be composed of ten community members, five from Prospect and five from Beacon Falls, as well as two members of the Region 16 Board of Education.

Superintendent of Schools James Agostine, school board Business Manager Hugh Potter, Facilities Director Richard Jalbert, Community School Principal Joseph Nuzzo, Algonquin School Principal Lynn Patterson, Laurel Ledge Principal Regina Murzak, the architectural staff and construction manager or general contractor will all advise the committee.

Officials expect that once a referendum passes the public, plans will move forward and studies will commence. Agostine projects the cost of getting an architect on board to be approximately $50,000.

The committee will discuss the efficiency and safety concerns at Laurel Ledge School, and specifically the problems caused by having unconnected buildings.

Currently students have to travel outdoors to go to offices, like the principal’s and nurse’s office. Also, officials believe resources such as heating oil are wasted due to the constant entering and exiting of buildings.

Connecting the school’s two buildings would eliminate these problems, but some feared it would take away from its aesthetically-pleasing appearance.

“I love the building; it’s my favorite building aesthetically,” Agostine said. “But from a safety point of view, and as far as efficiency, it’s my biggest worry. What I would challenge the architects to do is connect those buildings while still maintaining the aesthetic appeal.”

The project budget has not been announced. School officials are waiting for a rough design to be conducted by a contractor to get an initial idea of the project’s cost.

Officials hope that in connecting the buildings they can simultaneously create classroom space, something that the state Department of Education often grants funding for.

To ensure all issues are covered, Region 16 will also commission sub-committees consisting of school faculty members and contractors to make sure the builders are in tune with the schools’ needs.

“We want to make sure the public has confidence that this committee is represented by strong members and we are addressing everything that needs to be addressed,” said school board Chairwoman Lisa DeGoes.

All residents interested in serving on the committee are encouraged to send a letter of interest to the superintendent’s office. Officials expect the committee to meet monthly for five to six years.