Region 16 marks opening of Prospect Elementary, work continues on Laurel Ledge and district office
REGION 16 — The first day of school in Region 16 isn’t until Monday. Nevertheless, the sounds of excited students filled the halls of Prospect Elementary School last Saturday morning.
The region, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, celebrated the official opening of its newest school at 75 New Haven Road in Prospect with a ribbon cutting ceremony Aug. 22.
“The opening of our new school is certainly a moment that we should all savor and enjoy,” Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin told the school officials, local dignitaries and hundreds of students and parents that came out to commemorate the occasion.
Prospect Elementary School, which is replacing Algonquin and Community schools in Prospect, is the largest part of a three-part school building project in the district. 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.
Prospect Elementary School Principal Rima McGeehan was hired four years ago when the new school was in its planning stage. Back then, she recalled, the question she was repeatedly asked was, “Where exactly is the new school?”
There’s no mistaking where the new school is now.
“Today, the building behind us is one that has surpassed our expectations,” McGeehan said.
Starting Monday, Prospect Elementary will be the home away from home for more than 600 students and 100 faculty members.
“My hope is that we will all work together to make each and every day at Prospect Elementary School a meaningful, productive, happy day,” Yamin said.
The 87,481-square-foot school has 32 classrooms, not including art, music, science, resource and enrichment rooms. The most recent budget figures put the cost of Prospect Elementary at about $34 million, which is under the projected $36.6 million budget for the new school at the time of the referendum.
Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield said the contractors that worked on the new school need to be thanked for the project coming in on time and under budget. He added the taxpayers in the region are also owed gratitude.
“We want to thank the taxpayers of Beacon Falls and Prospect for passing the referendum to build this for our future leaders of America,” Chatfield said.
Beacon Falls First Selectman Chris Bielik described the occasion as a “victory for partnership.”
“I look at today as a victory for partnership because this brand new school that is being opened here today and the renovation that’s being done over at Laurel Ledge is a victory for all of the students of Region 16,” Bielik said.
Following the remarks, the moment everyone was waiting for arrived. McGeehan, flanked by local officials, cut the ribbon with a pair of oversized novelty scissors, paving the way for students, parents and members of the public to flood into the school for a closer look.
“It was all for the children,” said Stan Pilat, chair of the school building committee.
Work wrapping up at Laurel Ledge
With one ribbon cutting ceremony in the books, another celebration is planned in the coming weeks at Laurel Ledge.
Cleaning crews and contractors were busy last week getting the school ready for the start of the new year. Yamin said the majority of work is expected to be finished when school starts, though some work will remain, including installing a sally port for the main entrance, and mechanical and electrical work.
The crux of the work at Laurel Ledge was constructing corridors to connect the buildings at the former campus-style school. The six classroom pods have been completely renovated. The bathrooms in the kindergarten through third-grade pods were gutted and renovated, as well. New art, music and science rooms were added on to the school. The entire school will also now be air conditioned.
“This (Laurel Ledge) has been renovated like new,” said Yamin as he led a reporter through the school last week.
The work added 10,597 square feet to the school, bringing Laurel Ledge to 55,363 square feet. The most recent estimate put the cost of the Laurel Ledge project at about $10 million, which is over the projected budget of $7.75 million at the time of the referendum.
Among the work wrapping up last week was the installation of new roofs. The work on the roofs has drawn concerns from one resident.
Douglas Bousquet, a Republican running for the Board of Education in Beacon Falls, addressed the school board at its meeting last week.
Bousquet questioned why the same company that installed the roof at Woodland Region High School was hired to do the roof work at Laurel Ledge.
In 2013, school officials discovered that parts of the roof at Woodland were in disrepair and needed to be fixed. According to the roof analysis report, the leaks and deterioration appear to be related to one or more installation errors, which allowed water to enter. Greenwood Industries out of Millbury, Mass., was the contractor hired to install the roof at Woodland.
Bousquet, who works for a construction company that did some of the repairs to the roof at Woodland, said he spotted a problem with one of the building’s roofs. He said the roof over building six had two different shades of shingles.
Yamin confirmed, in a subsequent interview, that the same company that did the roof at Woodland was hired for the work at Laurel Ledge. He said it is a public bid and the company is on the state bid list. He said the board can’t eliminate them and have to, by law, accept the lowest bidder when it receives state money.
The district is receiving state reimbursement on the new school and the work at Laurel Ledge.
Delays persist with district office
The final piece of the overall project is a new, 6,600-square-foot district office.
The office will be built at 30 Coer Road in Prospect, where Algonquin School currently stands. Algonquin School, with the exception of the annex, will be demolished to make way for the new office.
Officials were hopeful that construction of the office would start by the end of this month. But environmental issues have delayed demolition of the school.
Yamin said additional PCBs and asbestos were found in some of the walls, behind chalkboards and on piping that was buried in attic. Yamin said the discovery of these containments was unexpected. He said they were not included in a report done by Facility Support Services, a Hamden-based environmental and safety consulting engineering firm.
Yamin said the additional remediation work will drive up the cost of the project, though exact figures weren’t known as of press time. A recent estimate put the cost for the office project at $2.5 million.
The plan at the time of the referendum was to renovate a portion of Algonquin for the office. However, in order to get the entire project finished in time and within budget, the board decided to demolish the school and build a new office. Doing so meant the district forfeited state reimbursement for the office.