Wading through construction, confusion

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First day a NHS goes smoother than expected

Construction continues on first day of school at Naugatuck High School Wednesday. –RA ARCHIVE
Construction continues on first day of school at Naugatuck High School Wednesday. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — Students streamed past workers in hard hats and machinery Wednesday as they made their way into Naugatuck High School for the first day of the 2013-14 year.

During a renovation that will take more than two years, an entire wing of the building is out of commission while workers overhaul it to mint condition, repairing infrastructure and upgrading technology.

In response, 19 temporary classrooms have been installed throughout the school, a development that confused some freshmen and upperclassmen alike Wednesday.

Students clustered around Principal Janice Saam and crowded the main office asking where to go.

“Is Mr. Leary’s homeroom in the cafeteria?” a tall young man shouted to Saam over the din. It was.

Saam said she always begins the first day of school by directing students, mainly freshmen. Despite the construction-related confusion, administrators said school started this year more smoothly than they expected.

“I’m surprised how polite and kind and happy the kids are,” Saam said.

Officials last week were holding their breath for a smooth opening, as O & G, the Torrington-based company managing the renovation, ran a week behind schedule, said Business Manager Robert Butler. Workers were still installing the temporary classrooms, partitioned with sheetrock walls, so custodians could not fully clean them and touch them up, Butler said.

“It took a bit of overtime, but they were able to get the high school ship-shape,” Butler said.

From left, Josh Monte, 16, along with Bianca Rigoli, 16, and her sister Alayna, 16, of Naugatuck get ride home from their mom on the first day of school at Naugatuck High School Wednesday. Construction is ongoing on the renovation project at the school. –RA ARCHIVE
From left, Josh Monte, 16, along with Bianca Rigoli, 16, and her sister Alayna, 16, of Naugatuck get ride home from their mom on the first day of school at Naugatuck High School Wednesday. Construction is ongoing on the renovation project at the school. –RA ARCHIVE

Workers carved seven temporary classrooms out of the library after shelves of books and computer stations were removed to make room, librarian Colleen McMorran said. The library still has 52 computers and most of the reference materials are electronic now, McMorran said.

“We are going to have to make do,” McMorran said. “It’s a pain but it’s exciting.”

The temporary classrooms will remain throughout the renovation, which is scheduled for completion during the fall semester of 2015. The building’s Goodyear wing, currently off limits, will be usable again in mid-January, Saam said. Workers will then move to the Castle wing, and students from that section will be reassigned to the temporary rooms. Some students will have to move lockers as one wing closes and another opens back up.

The new football field, made of synthetic turf, is complete, but no one is allowed on it until the new track ringing the field settles, officials said. The field should be usable by the Sept. 20 home opening football game, Saam said. Meanwhile, the team is practicing at Hop Brook Elementary School and possibly working out arrangements with other schools, Saam said.

The pool and new natatorium should be in place for the boys’ swim season in November, Saam said.

Some upperclassmen complained that they are dealing with all the inconveniences of the renovation, but they will graduate before experiencing any of the project’s rewards.

Jake Gingold, a 16-year-old junior, said his homeroom was supposed to be in the Goodyear wing. He had to consult a map posted near the main entrance, and then ask a secretary, before discovering his class was in a temporary room newly installed in the applied education wing.

“It’s just annoying,” he said.