Jefferson project timing could impact Ponus STEAM Academy
NORWALK — Rather than move Jefferson School students to the new wing of what would be the newly constructed Ponus Ridge STEAM Academy in September 2020, city officials are contemplating a mid-year move instead.
According to school facilties project manager Jim Giuliano and the city’s Building and Facilities Manager Alan Lo, despite the Ponus Ridge expansion project being on time for fall 2020, the district is contemplating the mid-year move at Jefferson because it’s unlikely construction could start on the elementary school until December.
“When I laid the schedule out, it’ll take roughly 10 months, 10 to 11 months to fully design the renovate-as-new for Jefferson,” Giulano explained at Wednesday meetings of the city’s Facilities Construction Commission and the Common Council’s Land Use Committee. “That brings us to around this time, meaning August, of next year. Then we have to go through city approval, state approval. That takes roughly around three months. and then we have to go out to bid, that takes roughly two months. That puts us into December starting construction.”
According to Giuliano, members of the Board of Education whom he consulted were concerned about the idea of a mid-year start to a new STEAM curriculum. But, because the construction on Jefferson is expected to take roughly a year-and-a-half, either at the start or the end of the project, students would be moving mid-year.
“Whether a mid-year move or a mid-year opening, I don’t think they want that either, so we’ve got to work those things out,” Lo said.
The planned improvements to Jefferson were approved last spring as the Board of Education was forced to reconsider its future building projects. Giuliano and Lo provided updates on several.
A state mandated land-swap agreement that would’ve enabled the district to proceed on the new Columbus at Ely School has not yet been approved, throwing off the schedule of construction at that school, and its companion project, the so-called Norwalk Global Academy at the current Columbus.
Giuliano and Lo said they had an informational meeting scheduled Friday with officials at the state’s Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, the body that will ultimately approve or reject the proposal.
The board has also sought assurance in the spring that money would be allocated in next year’s capital budget for a new Cranbury School. According to Giuliano, a feasibility study for the project is underway. Results are expected mid-October.
At Norwalk High School, crews ran into trouble on both bathroom replacement projects as well as the creation of a new area, according to Giuliano.
“We had quite a tough summer, dealing with these projects,” Giuliano said.
In order to complete what work was finished on the bathrooms, water to the entire building had to be shut off, Giuliano said, costing the project an entire week.
“A week is a lot of time for us, because we only get seven weeks to do work in the summertime,” Lo said.
Crews will also be working off hours to put new material on the walls of Norwalk High School where old wooden paneling had been until this summer. Giuliano estimated the culinary expansion would be complete by mid-October, while other work on the school could be done by December.
According to former Norwalk High School parent and Common Council member Barbara Smyth, staff members were disappointed at the state of the school when they returned.
“When the staff came in and saw, you know, the bathrooms the way they were, they were pretty upset,” Smyth said. “I think there’s still a lot of confusion with the staff, they don’t have all the information.”
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