Heavy construction at Meriden high schools as first day nears

Photo courtesy of Dave Zajac of the Meriden Record-Journal
August 1, 2015

Work is going full-tilt at the city’s two public high schools as construction crews get new portions of both buildings ready in time for the first day of school.

Platt High School is in the middle of its own $111.8 million construction project.

The biggest change for students will likely be the opening of a new cafeteria and kitchen, which, along with weight and fitness rooms, new locker rooms, some classrooms and technical education rooms, are all on track to be completed by the first day of school, said David Cravanzola, the project’s manager. Cravanzola works for the Torrington-based O&G Industries Inc., which is overseeing work at the school.

The cafeteria is a roughly ear-shaped room, and floor-to-ceiling windows here too offer an impressive view of the school’s football field and track. Subtly inlaid in tile at the center of the cafeteria is a panther’s head, a nod to the school’s mascot.

New manufacturing and science, technology, engineering, and math labs are also under construction. Those too should be open to students on the first day of school, though full equipment should arrive a few weeks later, Assistant Superintendent Michael S. Grove said.

The rooms are slightly behind schedule because of more recent changes to their use. The rooms were originally planned as automotive shops, but members of the Board of Education voted in December to convert the rooms for more engineering-oriented uses.

The weight and fitness rooms are separated by a shared wall, though Cravanzola said sound insulating material was used to ensure that one room stays quiet from the next. Both rooms are covered with rubber flooring, but in the weight room, special 1 1/4-inch thick rubber will be laid to absorb the shock of weights being dropped.

School leaders Wednesday remarked on the relatively large size of the new weight room.

Bill Mead, project manager with the Bridgeport-based architectural firm Antinozzi Associates said, “Well, when you consider they used to lift the weights in the tunnel under the pool deck...”

“I remember, I used to lift those weights,” Benigni said, himself a Platt graduate.

Demolition work has already begun for the next phase of work, which will entail building a new three-story classroom wing that will attach to the new wing built last year, as well as a renovated auditorium.

A sign of this, a pile of seats torn out of the auditorium, could be seen behind the northern side of the school.

Overall, Benigni and Grove said they’re pleased with how work is progressing.

“It’s just amazing how one phase gets done, and you just work around it and move on to the next,” Benigni said. The phased work that’s required to renovate schools in use has often meant temporarily moving classrooms, staff, or in Maloney’s case, an entire cafeteria setup. Benigni says the disruption hasn’t led to increased levels of behavioral or learning disruptions, which administrators were wary of at the outset of the projects.

“The principals and the administrative team and the staff, they’ve done a terrific job of continuing teaching and learning and not letting this building project get in the way,” Benigni said. “It’s really a credit to the student body as well as a staff.”

Read the original story on Record-Journal.com.