New school nearly finished

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Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin, left, discusses amenities of the new Prospect Elementary School last week with Principal Rima McGeehan at the school at 75 New Haven Road in Prospect. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin, left, discusses amenities of the new Prospect Elementary School last week with Principal Rima McGeehan at the school at 75 New Haven Road in Prospect. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

PROSPECT — The new Prospect Elementary School is ready to make its public debut.

Punch-list items are the only things left to be done at the new school at 75 New Haven Road, said Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin, who added the school is about 95 percent finished.

The new school has its temporary certificate of occupancy, Yamin said. Some minor work, including installing the phone and intercom systems, has to be finished before a permanent certificate of occupancy is issued, he said. He expects that work to be done in about five to eight weeks.

Punch-list items aside, Prospect Elementary School will be opened next week for the public to get a first-hand look at the new building. Tours of the building will be conducted on May 30 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. during an open house.

“We’re excited to show [the public] and grateful for the investment in the school facilities,” Yamin said.

The new school is the largest part of a three-part building project in Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect. The project also includes renovations and additions to Laurel Ledge Elementary School in Beacon Falls and a new district office in Prospect. Voters approved bonding up to $47.5 million for the project in December 2011.

Algonquin and Community schools in Prospect will close at the end of the current school year. Come the fall, elementary students in Prospect will all attend the new school.

“It’s bittersweet that both the students and the adults will be leaving the schools that they know as home,” Algonquin and Community schools Principal Rima McGeehan said. “But, everybody’s very excited and we are looking forward to the transition.”

McGeehan, who will be the principal at the new school, added the transition is “like moving into a new home but bringing your whole family with you.”

The classrooms and offices sit empty for now as officials wait for the furniture to arrive. Workers were busy last week touching up areas inside the school.

The exterior of the school is a mix of red siding, brick, and light brown-colored stone. The 28-classroom school is split in two wings. As one approaches the main entrance of the school, the single-story kindergarten wing is on the left, and the two-story wing for the older grades is on the right.

The kindergarten wing, which includes rooms for special services, has five large classrooms for the implementation of full-day kindergarten in the fall. The large classes leave enough space for a variety of learning centers, a kitchen area and a puppet theater.

“In our current K program it’s difficult to fit extra activities in,” McGeehan said about the current half-day program. “So the idea is the extras will be fit in, but they will be embedded into our literacy and math so that those programs are strengthened and enriched.”

At the center of the building are the main offices and shared facilities, including a media center and computer lab. The gymnasium and the cafeteria are divided by a stage, which allows for both sides to be opened for presentations for the entire school.

As construction of the new school draws to a close, the work at Laurel Ledge is about 60 percent complete, Yamin said.

The crux of the work at Laurel Ledge was constructing corridors to connect the buildings at the former campus-style school. Those corridors are in place and in use, though some finishing touches need to be done.

Yamin said three pods at Laurel Ledge have been renovated and work is currently happening in a fourth pod. When the summer comes, he said, the push will be to renovate the remaining pods, replace the roofs that haven’t been replaced yet, and repair the parking lot.

Region 16 will offer tours of the new Prospect Elementary School at 75 New Haven Road in Prospect May 30 during an open house from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
Region 16 will offer tours of the new Prospect Elementary School at 75 New Haven Road in Prospect May 30 during an open house from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Yamin said the entire project is expected to be finished on time and within budget.
The new school project is under budget by about $2 million, Yamin said. At the time of the referendum, the projected budget for the new school was $36.6 million.

The savings have helped offset overruns with the Laurel Ledge project, which was budgeted at about $7.75 million at the referendum. The project is over budget about $2 million.

Budget concerns have also impacted the plan for the new office.

When the project was approved at a referendum in 2011, the plan for the new office called for demolishing the wing of Algonquin School closest to Route 69 and renovating the remaining part of the school for the office. However, this plan would cause the entire project to go over budget, due mostly to the abatement work that would be needed, and leave the district with a building that would require about $2 million in work in the coming years.

The Board of Education has decided to demolish the entire school, with the exception of the annex, and build a new 6,100 square-foot office on the site.

Changing the scope of the district office plan means the board will forfeit an estimated $700,000 in state reimbursement for the district office. State officials said the district would have to reapply for reimbursement if the plan was changed. However, reapplying for state reimbursement would cause significant delays in the project, which is on a timeline. If the entire project isn’t finished by the end of December, the board will have to pay penalties to Turner Construction and Fletcher Thompson Architects, the firms overseeing the project, under the terms of contracts with the two firms.