The Board of Education approved spending $940,000 to make repairs at Central Middle School this summer, and an additional $150,000 for educational specifications and environmental testing, which will be needed when the district begins its work on building a new Central Middle School.
On Jan. 28, the district’s engineering consultant, Diversified Technology Consultants, issued a report on the status of the building, noting “significant structural concerns.” After town inspectors and school officials toured the site with the consultants in early February, the building was closed and students were temporarily relocated for the week of Feb. 7, ahead of the district’s winter break. Students returned to the building following break, after facilities crews and hired contractors put temporary measures in place to secure the building and keep it structurally sound.
The emergency work, which included adding bridging, or supports, to some of the walls totaled $717,141. The district reallocated capital funding that had been already approved to cover $671,000 of that. The remaining $46,141 was put into the $940,000 ask for interim repair work that will take place over the summer.
“Assuming the paperwork and contracts are in place, we’ll start the day after school (ends),” said Dan Watson, the school district’s director of facilities. “If we can start some preliminary work, we will do it sooner.”
Watson said that the “process is going to be very noisy” which is why they won’t begin work during the year.
“With the school being safe and able to be occupied it makes sense to do it during the summer,” he said.
The additional $150,000 will go towards creating educational specifications for a new school building that will eventually replace Central Middle School. Those specifications include details such as how many classrooms are needed, what additional areas, such as a gymnasium and auditorium, are necessary, and how many children are projected to be enrolled, as well as conducting some environmental testing on the site to see where it could be built.
The district hopes that by doing this now, they can get the paperwork in place to apply for state reimbursement by the June 2023 deadline and begin design work after that. The district is aiming for a 20 month construction schedule once it gets state approval for funding.
Some board members, who said that they know school construction projects can take awhile, were still taken aback by the timeline.
“The fact that this is us expediting the process—this is incredible to me,” said Board President Kathleen Stowe, noting that students wouldn’t be in the new building until 2026.
Superintendent Toni Jones, however, argued the district’s timeline was set with state reimbursement in mind.
In order to get state reimbursement for the project, the district must submit educational specifics, preliminary design, and other information, all before June 30—the only time the state accepts school construction proposals. Jones said that because the district won’t be able to have all that for this year, that forces them to send their materials to the state by June 30, 2023. During that year, however, work behind the scenes, such as design plans, will take place, so once they get state approval in 2023, they can begin construction.
“The timeline that we’ve set is realistic,” she said.
The funding now has to be approved by the Board of Estimate and Taxation, which is having two special meetings on the proposed funding this week. Its budget committee will review the request on Monday, Feb. 28 at 10 a.m., and the full board will vote on it on Tuesday, March 1 at 9 a.m.