Officials mark start of NHS renovation project

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Naugatuck High School Principal Janice Saam, right, with five of her students throw shovels of dirt during a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday morning at the school to mark the start of the $81 million renovation project. –LUKE MARSHALL
Naugatuck High School Principal Janice Saam, right, with five of her students throw shovels of dirt during a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday morning at the school to mark the start of the $81 million renovation project. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — With white hard hats and golden shovels in hand, borough officials broke ground on the Naugatuck High School renovation project Tuesday morning.

State and local officials gathered on the green in front of the school to commemorate the start of the 30-month, $81 million renovation project.

“We’re very excited that everybody is here today and that the big day has finally arrived,” Board of Education Chairman David Heller said.

Work on the project began Monday as workers from O & G Industries descended on the school for preliminary work. The company will use the parking lot in front of the Davis Auditorium as a staging area, which means students will have to park in the upper lot off Millville Avenue. The first phase of the project includes work on the locker rooms behind the pool, the area in front of the pool, renovating the covered patio in the front of the school for offices and asbestos abatement. The abatement will take place during April vacation.

The first phase will also include renovations to the athletic fields. Synthetic turf will be laid down on the football field, which will double as the soccer field, and the baseball and softball diamonds will be moved to the lower fields. A six-lane track that rings the lower field will be expanded to eight lanes around the upper field.

Naugatuck dignitaries, from left, Mayor Robert Mezzo, Burgess Laurie Taf-Jackson, state Sen. Joseph Crisco (D-17), state Rep. Rosa Rebimbas (R-70), Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi and Burgess Catherine Ernsky mark the start of the $81 million renovation project during a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday morning at the school. –LUKE MARSHALL
Naugatuck dignitaries, from left, Mayor Robert Mezzo, Burgess Laurie Taf-Jackson, state Sen. Joseph Crisco (D-17), state Rep. Rosa Rebimbas (R-70), Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi and Burgess Catherine Ernsky mark the start of the $81 million renovation project during a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday morning at the school. –LUKE MARSHALL

Heller said he was thankful for all the people who have helped the project become a reality and have supported it.

“We’re very excited were finally breaking ground today,” Heller said. “We look forward to some wonderful work here for the next three years, and we’re going to work hard to stay on schedule, on task, and certainly within budget.”

Although completion of the project is 30 months away, Heller is already looking ahead to the day it’s finished.

“We look forward to reconvening here to celebrate the grand reopening of our newly renovated high school in 2015,” Heller said.

As the project progress, students and the public will be informed through a website that the school’s journalism and web design classes are creating, said journalism teacher Caroline Messenger last week. The domain name had not been decided as of press time, but a link will be posted to the school’s website.

Borough officials, from left, Assistant Superintendent of Schools Brigette Crispino, Naugatuck High School Principal Janice Saam, Superintendent of Schools John Tindall-Gibson, Board of Education member Scott Slauson, Board of Education Chairman David Heller, Mayor Robert Mezzo and Board of Education member James Jordan break ground on the Naugatuck High School renovation project during a ceremony Tuesday morning in front of the school. –LUKE MARSHALL
Borough officials, from left, Assistant Superintendent of Schools Brigette Crispino, Naugatuck High School Principal Janice Saam, Superintendent of Schools John Tindall-Gibson, Board of Education member Scott Slauson, Board of Education Chairman David Heller, Mayor Robert Mezzo and Board of Education member James Jordan break ground on the Naugatuck High School renovation project during a ceremony Tuesday morning in front of the school. –LUKE MARSHALL

Students last week were finishing a “before” video of the school and will produce videos during and after the renovation, Messenger said. Students are also planning to bury a time capsule with things that will be replaced by the renovation, such as a piece of chalkboard, Messenger said.

The student website will also feature weekly or monthly written updates during the renovation process, Messenger said.

“I think it will help to keep people informed about what’s happening, how long and when,” Messenger said. “We’re hoping it will be a central location for some information.”

At Tuesday’s groundbreaking, Mayor Robert Mezzo said he was happy with how much support the project has received from residents to help it move forward.

“It was a very representative part of our community that took this project from idea to referendum to reality,” Mezzo said.

Mezzo said that he hopes the high school project is just the beginning of the district-wide renovation.

“We are very excited and let’s get digging,” Mezzo said.

The Republican American contributed to this article.