High School cafeteria expansion on schedule after early delays

After setbacks delayed work on the Darien High School cafeteria expansion in the spring, the project has been moving forward at a steady pace through the summer to ensure a minimal impact on the students returning to school in the fall.

The project first launched in April but was brought to an abrupt halt when the construction team discovered an underground duct bank in the project area containing power, telecommunication and cable lines. The building committee eventually determined that the utility lines would need to be moved in order to satisfy state regulations and complete the cafeteria project as planned. Furthermore, future projects at the school would have run into the same issue the bank was left unaddressed.

However, due to the bank’s proximity to the Darien High School stadium, former superintendent Dr. Dan Brenner asked the committee to delay work on the duct until after graduation so spring school activities could conclude. In doing so, the project’s full completion date has been moved back to November, but the existing cafeteria space will be available for students when they return at the end of the month.

In the past students at the Darien High School expressed frustration with the lack of space in the cafeteria, which had seats for 330 students prior to the expansion. During public hearings they explained that the crowded lunchroom often led to students eating in the hallways or outside of the school. The expansion project was designed to add 95 seats to the cafeteria, with 60 planned for the new space while another 35 seats will be added to the existing area with a revised floor plan. Town officials approved $1.6 million for the expansion of the DHS cafeteria as a part of the 2017-18 budget.

In order to complete the additional electrical work, the Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen approved an additional appropriation of $262,000 for the project. The utility lines in the duct bank were successfully relocated during July. Eversource Energy and cable provider Altice agreed to complete their own portion of the work on the duct bank without cost to the town.

“Work on the cafeteria continues at a good pace,” McCammon said during a recent building committee meeting. “We’re pleased to report that while the work is far from done, the primary health and safety work needed to occupy the cafeteria is complete.”

Darien High School students will return to class on Thursday, Aug. 30, and work on the cafeteria is expected to continue into mid-November.