Middletown’s new school design makes it a green achievement

Middletown’s new school design makes it a green achievement

Construction of the new $87.3 million junior high school is nearing the final stretch, despite obstacles presented by the coronavirus pandemic, something one common councilman called “amazing.”

The building of Beman Middle School, which will replace the former Woodrow Wilson Middle School, combining seventh- and eighth-grade students with sixth-graders from Keigwin Middle School next fall, has encountered some problems along the way, such as getting steel due to tariffs and a slowdown in construction caused by early COVID-19 restrictions on manufacturing, Common Council Majority Leader Gene Nocera, Woodrow Wilson Middle School Building Committee co-chairman, said Thursday.

“You can really get the sense of the school now,” he said.

Most recently, $8,000 worth of additional steel needed to be secured to support the roof when the skylights were put in, Nocera said. “There were a lot of balls in the air.”

TSKP architect Michael Scott provided an energy efficiency update at a meeting of the committee earlier this week.

State statute requires new educational facilities to comply with Connecticut High Performance Buildings metrics and protocols, Scott said in his presentation.

The new school is forecast to outperform other similarly sized buildings in energy efficiency by some 28.5 percent, Scott said. Work includes installation of rooftop photovoltaics, with 14 areas that, for example, could generate enough electricity to power 30 homes. That will offset 179 tons of carbon dioxide a year, the architect said.

Also, combined solar arrays could get the school’s electrical production close to its consumption, making it net zero, he said.

Finances have been on schedule throughout the duration of the project, which has been nonstop since June 2019. “That’s also incredible given the extra costs we faced with safety and security procedures,” Scott said.

Committee members may even have extra funding toward the end of the project which could be used to purchase “wish list” items: “little tweaks here and there,” Nocera said.

A ceremonial ground-breaking was held in September, which included the unveiling of a banner declaring it the Beman Middle School. The school colors — black and gold — will remain to match the Pat Kidney Sports Complex across the street.

Some elements of the old facility will be incorporated into the new design, including photographs and other mementos. “That way, those who went there can walk in and say, ‘here’s my little school,’” said Nocera, who called retention of recreation facilities a “silver lining.”

The entrance will be at the back of the new facility, which now faces Woodrow Wilson. Everything but the gym, auxiliary gym and pool will be demolished, Nocera said. Those three will form the recreation center, where staff will move in later this year.

Bond funding will pay for eventual upgrades estimated at $1.3 million, Nocera said. That could be completed anytime between one and three years, depending on how the work is phased.

Members did have some concerns over the demolition of the old school, Nocera said. “That’s the one thing that will tip the scales” in terms of expenses, but he did not expect the budget to be exhausted because of reserve funds.

Work will start in late June or July. To hasten the project, “we have deemed all the debris to be contaminated, because it’s more cost-effective to deal with it that way,” Nocera said.

It will be expensive to dispose of the debris, he said. That project soon will be sent out to bid.

The state-of-the-art innovation lab is slightly behind schedule, he said. “We were worried that was going to slow us down.” It was added to the project later in the process, once the district received a $300,000 grant from the state and federal governments.

The innovation lab is forging ahead, Councilwoman and committee Co-Chairwoman Jeanette Blackwell said Thursday. All materials have been ordered, the placement of steel and concrete are complete, and items such as doorframes and HVAC system equipment will come soon.

Despite that, the sub-project is on schedule, Blackwell said. The innovation lab will provide students the opportunity to choose one of several pathways, including STEM, computer science and aerospace manufacturing. “The vision for the new structure is aligned with 21st century learning, and I am so humbled to be part of this endeavor,” Blackwell said.

“As a new member to the council, it has been immensely wonderful to observe this construction as it evolves,” she said.

The center will bring the school district up to par with the latest technology. “It’s a dream come true,” Nocera said.

Read the original story on The Middletown Press (https://www.middletownpress.com/middletown/article/Middletown-s-new-school-design-makes-it-a-green-15838897.php).

*O&G’s Building Group served as the Construction Management for the construction of Beman Middle School in Middletown, CT.