Region 16 building project on track

An artistic rendering of the new elementary school to be built in Prospect. -CONTRIBUTED
An artistic rendering of the new elementary school to be built in Prospect. -CONTRIBUTED

BEACON FALLS — The three-part Region 16 school building project is drawing near the end of the design phase on schedule and on budget in anticipation of going out to bid on the two larger portions of the plan in April.

In December 2011, voters in Beacon Falls and Prospect approved bonding $47.5 million for the project. The project entails a new pre-kindergarten-through-fifth-grade school in Prospect, renovations and additions to Laurel Ledge Elementary School and a new district office.

The Region 16 Building Committee has been working for the past year or so with Fletcher Thompson Architects, of Shelton, and Turner Construction, of Milford, on designing the plans.

“They work very hard on your behalf to make sure this school is representative of our communities and that they’re getting the best bang for the dollar and that it’s a pleasant and academically correct school for your children,” building committee Chairman Stanley Pilat told about a dozen or so people who turned out for a presentation updating the status of the project Jan. 30 at Woodland Regional High School.

Committee members along with representatives from Fletcher Thompson and Turner Construction led the presentation, the second one in as many nights last week.

Vikas Nagardeolekar, senior associate project manager with Fletcher Thompson, said the project is at the end of the design phase.

The designs are currently being reviewed by the state and, Nagardeolekar said, officials expect to go out to bid on the new school and the Laurel Ledge renovations in April on track to complete the projects in September 2014.

The new school will be built at 75 New Haven Road in Prospect and will replace Community and Algonquin schools. The school will have two wings — a one-story wing for prekindergarten and kindergarten students and a two-story wing for first- through fifth-graders. In the middle of the wings will be the main office and shared core facilities such as the media center, gymnasium and cafeteria.

The site will feature separate areas for buses and parents to drop off students and 300 parking spaces in all.

Dan Davis, associate director of design with Fletcher Thompson, described the school site as an “island” and said the 300 parking spaces are planned to accommodate parking for large events since no parking is available on Route 69.

The bulk of the work at Laurel Ledge will consist of adding corridors to connect all of the buildings at the campus-style school. A music and art classroom will also be added, and the current art classroom will be reverted to a science classroom.

In the wake of the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, school security has been a priority across the country. Security is certainly at the forefront as the plans for the schools unfold, Nagardeolekar said.

The new school is designed with “double doors” so visitors will have to be buzzed in through the main entrance then go to the administrative offices to be allowed into the school. It’s a design the committee was looking at prior to the shootings, officials said.

Davis said the appropriate amount of glass for the schools has been a discussion among the committee since the beginning as well.

Pilat added the committee is also keeping a close eye on any new school safety initiatives that may come out of the legislature and how they could potentially affect the process. Safety is a concern all the time, he said.

Once the bids for the new school and the work at Laurel Ledge come in a final decision will be made on the new district office along with additional improvements.

Several approaches have been looked at for the new office as part of the project, including building it on the site of the new school and renovating Algonquin School. The current plan calls for demolishing Algonquin School and building a new office on the site. The school’s annex would be saved.

The estimated costs for demolishing and abating Algonquin School have come in higher than expected. Davis said officials are waiting to see exactly how much building the new school and the renovations at Laurel Ledge will cost so a better decision can be made on how and where to build the office.

The district office is on a separate, later timeline from the other parts of the project so there is no immediate rush to make a decision.

The bids will also determine whether other improvements including a new roof at Laurel Ledge and upgrading the ball fields at Laurel Ledge. Larger improvements, like the new roof, will be bid out as alternatives so the committee will know exactly how much they will cost, officials said.

As for the fields at Laurel Ledge, Nagardeolekar said through the process it’s been determined they meet the needs of the school and are well maintained. He said the building committee is prioritizing money for components of the schools.

“The basis of these projects clearly is the educational vision. It’s how are we going to serve the needs of the students in the community,” he said.