Project progresses as school approaches

Crews work in the courtyard of Laurel Ledge Elementary School in Beacon Falls Aug. 21 laying the groundwork for new corridors to connect the buildings. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
Crews work in the courtyard of Laurel Ledge Elementary School in Beacon Falls Aug. 21 laying the groundwork for new corridors to connect the buildings. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — As the first day of school gets closer, construction crews are hard at work at Laurel Ledge Elementary School.

The crux of the renovation and addition project is building corridors to connect the buildings at the campus-style school. The project also includes new bathrooms, a new art room, new roofs and renovations to the buildings.

Crews have been working double shifts since the project began in late July in anticipation of school starting Tuesday. Mike Diehl of Turner Construction, superintendent for the Laurel Ledge project, said Aug. 21 that phase one is 95 percent complete.

The first phase includes a new basketball court for students to use at recess, underground utility work in the courtyard and laying the foundation for the new corridors and art room.

Diehl said repairs to the roofs of four of the buildings will also be finished by the time school begins. The other roofs will be done when school isn’t in session in order to not disturb classes, he said.

When school starts Tuesday, the project will move to phase two and the double shifts will end. Work, which will go from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., will be concentrated in the courtyard. Diehl said the focus will be erecting the steel and doing the masonry for the corridors and new art room.

Heading into the school year, Laurel Ledge Principal Regina Murzak said the safety of students is the top priority for everyone involved in the project. She said officials have been in constant talks with representatives of Turner Construction to ensure construction areas will be safely separated from students.

Diehl said the courtyard will be completely fenced in and the doors from each building leading out to the courtyard have been blocked off. All deliveries and materials will be brought into the courtyard by 8 a.m. each day — before students start arriving at 8:30 a.m. — then the fences will be locked, Diehl said.

Equipment and the cars of workers will also be fenced as will the pathway leading up to the playground area, Diehl added.

Beacon Falls Fire Marshal Eddie Rodriguez has also been working with Turner Construction to ensure the school is safe for students.

“My number one priority of course is the safety of our children,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez toured the site last week for several hours with First Selectmen Chris Bielik to make sure all of the fire alarms are working and the necessary emergency egresses are in place. Rodriguez said everything is set for the first day of school.

Rodriguez did another walkthrough this week and will be on site for the first day of school.

Murzak said construction will not impact the procedure for dropping off students, adding that Turner Construction has been very flexible and accommodating to her and her staff.

“It’s certainly an exciting time,” she said about the renovations.

The work at Laurel Ledge is one part of a three-part building project in Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect. Voters approved spending up to $47.5 million for the project at a referendum in December 2011.

The largest part of the project is the new Prospect Elementary School, which will replace Algonquin and Community schools in Prospect.

Significant progress is being made in the construction of the new Prospect Elementary School, Superintendent of Schools Tim James said in a letter updating the status of the overall project.

The gas lines and water lines on Route 69 have been installed, and all the roofing work is expected to be complete by the end of August, he wrote. Window installation will begin in early September, he wrote. The project is on target to be “water-tight” by Oct. 31 so inside work can continue through the fall and winter, he said.

The new school and work at Laurel Ledge is expected to be complete by the fall of 2015.

A new district office on the Algonquin School site is the third part of the project. The School Building Committee has established a subcommittee to examine construction options and related costs for the new office, James said in the letter.