As the new school year draws closer, renovations at Naugatuck High School continue to move forward.
The $81 million project began over a year ago with the reconstruction of the football field, the pool and world language classes. When students return to school Sept. 3, many of them will be learning in newly renovated classrooms.
“We are completing work on what had been Castle. So, at the start of the school year, all those classrooms will be back online,” Naugatuck High School Principal Janice Saam said.
Castle, which will be known as South, is expected to be brought back online Aug. 18, Saam said. At that time all of the furniture will be brought back into the classrooms and the district’s information technology department will begin hooking the classrooms up for internet.
The following Monday staff will be allowed to return to their classrooms, Saam said.
Students will also be retuning to a building that will look very different on the outside.
“The whole front of the building, the façade, has been removed and will be replaced. After that is done [the workers] can begin to complete what is the lobby area,” Saam said.
This change means the main entrance of the school, which has always been an outdoor patio, will now be enclosed as part of the school.
The major push right now is renovating the classrooms in the building formerly known as Judd.
“What’s going to be the major push is the even side of Judd, which will eventually become North. All those classrooms are having asbestos abatement this summer. Over the course of time from now until the end of January those rooms will be worked on. Around the end of January we will capture the odd side of what is now Judd and those classrooms will be remodeled,” Saam said.
Asbestos has been found in the glue that holds the tiles down and the caulk in the windows and door jams in the classrooms, Saam said. Although prevalent, the asbestos poses minimum risk of affecting people’s health, she said.
O&G Industries Project Manager Joe Vetro said the project is moving along well.
“We’re into a bunch of different areas. The abatement process was a big concern. However, that is actually ahead of schedule,” Vetro said.
Vetro said the focus for this summer is very different than last year.
“Last year the focus was the site, where we did all the fields. This year the focus is on the building. We’ve opened a tremendous amount of the building and are working on closing those back in before school starts,” Vetro said.
While a lot of work still remains before the school can open, Saam is confident the building will be ready for the start of school.
“I have no reason to suspect we will not start on time. We will absolutely be ready for the opening of school on Sept. 3,” Saam said. “You wouldn’t know that by looking at us right know, but if you recall last summer we looked the same way and we were ready.”
Saam’s not too worried about the students feeling lost when they return. She said they have been able to figure out new layouts quickly in the past.
“The students adapt almost immediately. After the first day they find their space,” Saam said.
When students left for their summer break, they were told which parts of the school would be coming offline and which would be going back online, Saam said.
Homerooms will be the same as last year, but the classroom itself may be in a different location if it was moved to a temporary room.
Saam said updates have been issued through School Messenger, the district’s email program.
“The students will get a letter from me a week or two before school starts, spelling out everything they need to know. Any important information prior to the opening of the school will also be communicated on the school’s website,” Saam said.
Saam has also been communicating with teachers and staff over the summer to keep them up to date.
It’s not just accommodating students and staff officials have to worry about. They also are working to ensure the renovations do not go over budget.
Burgess Robert Neth, who is chairman of the Long Term School Facility Planning Committee, and Vetro said the project is still running on time and under budget.
Saam credited the work of O&G for ensuring the project runs smoothly.
“I can not say enough about them as a company. They are accommodating, they are friendly, and very reassuring,” Saam said.
Saam also thanked borough residents for their support of the project.
“I think, when it’s all said and done, this place is going to be a spot of pride in the community. From what I can see, as each new section comes online, it’s going to be a great place for the community to use and have access to, and I hope it does become a focal point for the community,” Saam said.
Saam hopes residents can look to the high school as a model for improvements the borough plans to make to other schools.
“I’m really hoping this project goes well because I do know, long range, the town is looking to renovate other schools within the community. I’m hopeful that, this first time through it, we make it so that the community sees that their money was well spent, it was a good investment, we came in on time and under budget, and the residents would be more inclined to approve any future referendums that might go to renovating other buildings,” Saam said.