New year, no construction


NHS students, staff looking forward to a complete school

When the school year begins at Naugatuck High School on Monday it will be the first time in three years it does so without ongoing construction. –LUKE MARSHALL
When the school year begins at Naugatuck High School on Monday it will be the first time in three years it does so without ongoing construction. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — When Naugatuck High School students head back to school on Monday they won’t have to worry about whether their classrooms will be where they left them in June. That’s because the $81 million high school renovation project is complete.

“Looking back it’s kind of funny because it was almost as if every time I got comfortable with where my classes were and the routes I had to walk, they would change. I would be in one place and next thing you know, I was in another, walking through the unknown once again,” said incoming senior Steffanie Dube, who is a student representative on the Board of Education.

The renovation project, which began in April 2013, presented many obstacles for students. It meant the swim team didn’t have a pool during the 2013-14 season. Students in the classes of 2014 and 2015 graduated at the Palace Theater in Waterbury rather than on the school’s football field.

The construction also meant that classrooms were moved to temporary locations over the summer and winter breaks.

“It was a joy not having to play the chess game this summer of who is going to move into what room and will this room be ready and what do we do if it isn’t,” Naugatuck High School Principal Jan Saam said.

Over the summer, staff has primarily been focusing on ensuring the school is clean and ready for when students return, Saam said.

“Our custodial staff worked really hard this summer. For them it was the first time where they could clean and it would stay clean. They didn’t have to worry about construction dust coming back on something they cleaned. Once an area was done it could be shut down and was done,” Saam said.

The vast majority of the project wrapped up earlier this year. Saam said the only things that are left are extending the walls upward in the student lounge and ensuring certain phones and computers work during any power loss.

Getting to this point has been difficult, however. Saam commended the students for their flexibility.

“The students through this whole project were awesome. They seemed to adjust and go with the flow and be very flexible from day one. But I am sure at some point it is very annoying and an inconvenience when you can’t go down a certain hallway, can’t get to where you want to go, the classroom got moved,” Saam said.

Dube, along with fellow incoming seniors Nicole Diaz and Meredith Kummer, said the renovations impacted their education.

“I say this because it was challenging to pay attention in classes. Half the time I couldn’t hear the teachers with the constant, obnoxious drilling noises coming from the roof or a classroom that was undergoing remodel next door. I felt bad for the teachers who had to stay in their room all day and listen to the continuous construction and to deal with the on and off air conditioning problems that the school was having,” Kummer said.

Dube echoed Kummer’s comments, saying she was nervous about what her experiences would be in the school.

“It didn’t seem like the ideal learning facility at the time because parts of the floors were complete cement and lockers were missing and entire sections of the building were closed off,” Dube said.

Extra-curricular activities also had to learn to work around the ongoing renovations.

Kummer is a member of the NHS marching band, which had to move around a lot to practice while the football field was being re-done. Practicing on pavement made it difficult to adjust to grass at competitions, she said.

“We weren’t use to it. It took students a long time to adjust to the field at competitions and even the constant moving,” Kummer said.

Although the students got a feel of what the finished school is like in the spring, this will mark the first time they will walk into the school to start the year post renovation.

“I’m most looking forward to enjoying the school in all of its glory. There’s no more basement locker rooms or rusty lockers, there’s no more cement floors or dim lighting, there’s no more hammers or drills in the classroom next door making a ruckus. Instead, there’s a new school at my disposal to use for the best of my education and I plan on enjoying every moment of it,” Dube said.

For Diaz not having to worry about trying to find ever-rotating classrooms and knowing which hallways are impassable means she can focus on the important things, like figuring out what to do after graduation.

“I am fully excited to start senior year. I’m a bit nervous because of all these things I have to do for college soon, but I’m excited. It makes it all the better that our school is finally done and it’ll feel like a full year with a full school,” Diaz said.

Teachers are pleased as well now that the renovations have wrapped up and they know they won’t have to move classrooms.

“It’s really nice. We paid our dues for three years, but it was really worth it,” English and theater arts teacher John Carino said. “As the theater teacher, the brand new auditorium is wonderful. It’s of a class right up there with the one they have at [the University of Connecticut]. It is beautiful. I look forward to putting on productions at that facility.”

For Saam, the renovations mean the school is now a reflection of the work that goes on within its walls.

“I love it. I think it is beautiful. I think it is conducive to education as well as aesthetics. There was always great things going on in this building and now the exterior and interior mirror the greatness that happens here,” Saam said.

Looking back on all the time and effort that went into keeping the school running during the project, Saam said the finished product was absolutely worth it.

“But I would not want to do it again,” she added.