Committee plans for Phase 2

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Cross Street Intermediate School in Naugatuck would be torn down to make room for a new grades 5-to-8 complex under a plan being discussed by borough officials. –RA ARCHIVE
Cross Street Intermediate School in Naugatuck would be torn down to make room for a new grades 5-to-8 complex under a plan being discussed by borough officials. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — A committee looking into the long-term needs of the borough’s school system is moving forward with a plan to build a new grades 5-to-8 complex at the site of the current Cross Street Intermediate School.

The plan is considered Phase 2 of the plan initiated by the Long Term School Facilities Committee, which is reviewing the needs for public education over the next 20 years. Phase 1 is the ongoing $81 million renovate-to-new project at Naugatuck High School, which is slated to be finished by November.

Committee Chairman N. Warren “Pete” Hess said the committee is now updating new Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke on the plan, which has been in discussions for more than two years, and adding other new committee members, including Hillside Principal Johnna Hunt and possibly Board of Education members.

“We want to get their input from an educational standpoint about the proposed long-term plan so that it can be modified, tweaked or improved before it is completed and brought forth to the public,” Hess said.

Phase 2 is a multilayered, $86 million plan that calls for building separate school environments for grades five and six and grades seven and eight on Cross Street, off New Haven Road. The committee has also discussed renovating City Hill Middle School to new, similar to the high school project, and converting it into an elementary school. And the plan calls for tearing down the current Town Hall to make way for private development and converting Hillside Intermediate School and Salem Elementary School in a municipal government complex to replace Town Hall.

Phase 2, which would be bonded and paid back with interest over several years, would begin in the summer of 2017 and end in the fall of 2020. Per borough charter, bonding packages need to be approved by voters.

Educators have long said the current educational facilities are old and it is difficult retrofit them to meet the needs of modern students, who use technology on a daily basis. Plus they need several costly repairs — for example, this summer, the borough is looking to spend an estimated $715,000 to replace the roof at Hillside, $565,000 to replace the roof at Western School and an additional $90,000 to put solar panels on the roof at Western.

In the fall, the borough’s long-term capital projects committee had planned to use $30,000 left over from a bonded project to pay for architectural renderings for the proposed grades 5-to-8 complex. However, architects need to see education specifications before they move forward, said Burgess Bob Neth, who is chair of the capital projects committee and a member of the long-term school facilities committee.

Locke said she looks forward to working with the committee.

“It’s great that the borough has the best interest of the students and children in mind,” she said.

She said the committee will eventually bring together the community, parents, students, children, teachers, administrators and Board of Education members to help envision what schools should look like and will look like in the future to help the district accomplish its mission and goals.

She plans to present a proposal to the committee and school board a proposal to hire what she called a “visioner,” or someone who is both an architect and an educator.

“That person is going to help us bring stakeholder groups together to build schools for the future so that our kids have what they need to learn in an environment that is really ‘next generation,’” she said.