NAUGATUCK — As students prepare to head back to school next week, the renovation project at Naugatuck High School remains in full swing.
Steel beams have been placed around the school gymnasium, outlining what the future holds for that portion of the school, the entrance to the school has been partially blocked off and the driveway ended about 500 feet before the building on Monday morning.
“That’s what has people questioning whether or not we could be ready for the start of school, but it looks worse than it really is,” Naugatuck High School Principal Janice Saam said about the unpaved driveway on Monday morning.
Saam said the paving, which began on Monday, is supposed to be finished Wednesday with parking lines scheduled to be painted on Thursday.
Despite looking more like a construction zone, Saam said, as of Monday, the school will be open and ready for students on the first day of school Sept. 4.
The high school is in the midst of an $81-million renovation project, which is being led by Torrington-based O & G Industries. The project broke ground in April and work has continued over the summer.
Portions of the building where work is ongoing, including the wing of the school that used to be known as Goodyear and the pool area, will be closed off when students return.
Saam said returning students will most likely be slightly confused by the new layout of the school.
“They’re almost going to be like the freshman. They’re going to have to find new rooms,” Saam said.
Saam plans to have notices posted around the building to help students find their homerooms.
“My plan is I am going to have posted up around the building where their homerooms are going to be if their home room no longer exists,” Saam said.
Saam said there is a map to where new temporary classrooms are located that is labeled with the room number and teacher’s name and signs around the building pointing out the new classrooms.
Saam said she tried to label the new rooms so that they made sense to the students. The rooms in the resource center are labeled RC.
“I anticipate the first day or two people will be like, ‘Where’s this,’ but after a day or two people will settle in and figure out where to go,” Saam said.
It will not be just the new classrooms that students have to find when they come back to school. Saam said many of the students’ lockers have been moved as well.
“On their schedules they will have their new locker number and their homeroom teachers can hand out their new locker combinations,” Saam said.
Saam said she doesn’t think the incoming class of freshmen will have problems orientating to the building.
“They haven’t known it any other way,” Saam said.
An orientation for freshmen is scheduled for Thursday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the high school. Parents and students are asked to park in the upper parking lot on Millville Avenue and walk down to the cafeteria entrance.
It’s not just the students who will be returning to a school that is different from when they left in June.
Some teachers will come back to a classroom like they left it, while others will come back to a temporary classroom they’ve never seen before. Some teachers will come back to their own room but it will be stripped down as the area is prepared for renovation, Saam said.
Despite the disruption, Saam said the teachers are keeping a positive attitude and told her that they’ll make it work.
“I am so grateful they are coming in with that attitude,” Saam said.
Saam said the students and teachers will experience only one major change during the school year. The wing of the building that was formerly known as Goodyear will come back into service and the temporary classrooms will go back to the regular classrooms. The wing of the building formerly known as Castle will go out of service, and the students there will have to move into the temporary classrooms.
Along with the classrooms changing, the students who had displaced lockers in Goodyear will get new lockers and students who have lockers in Castle will have to move to different lockers.
“Basically what happened at the end of last school year will happen again mid-year and then will happen again at the end of the school year,” Saam said.
While the school may face a changing layout due to the work, one thing it won’t have to worry about is a shortage of classroom space.
Saam said she began working with O&G before the project started to make sure that when the students return this year there will be enough classrooms to accommodate all of them.
“I actually ended up this phase with one extra room, which at the moment is holding some furniture we’re not sure where to put,” Saam said. “I have enough spaces and I will have enough in the next phase of the renovation as well. The planning we did prior to all this really paid off.”
The project will also have an impact on some student-athletes.
The girls’ swim team will hold practices and meets at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls, Athletic Director Tom Pompei said.
Work is currently being done on Naugatuck High’s pool. Pompei expects the construction to be finished in time for the boys’ swim team to use the pool in the winter.
Pompei said the new turf field will be open the day before school starts, and the football and soccer teams will be able to practice and host games on it.
Saam said everyone has been putting in a lot of work to get the school into shape for the new school year.
“O&G has been phenomenal to work with,” Saam said. “Our custodial and maintenance staff is working feverishly around the clock to get the building ready. I have no reason to doubt that it will be ready for the first day of school.”
Saam said the main focus inside the school before the first day is cleaning.
“When you do construction the dust gets everywhere, even if it isn’t in the part of the building you’re working on. It just goes everywhere,” Saam said.