Newtown School Board Mulls Hawley HVAC Project Options | Top Stories


NEWTOWN — The Board of Education, meeting Tuesday, July 6, discussed the HVAC project at Hawley Elementary School, reviewing options presented by the superintendent.

“I wanted you to have all the possibilities,” Superintendent Dr. Lorrie Rodriuge said, noting that two of the options were the most practical and best for students and staff.

The first option is a nine-month, single-phase work plan taking place over summer of 2022 and into April of 2023, which will update the ventilation systems in all three sections of the school, including abatement of hazardous materials.

The advantage of this option is lower cost with no starts or stops, and no traffic or safety concerns on campus, given the absence of students and staff.

The summer break could be a buffer to allow for any extra construction time, if needed.

Students and staff would be moved for that school year to Sandy Hook Elementary and Reed Intermediate Schools.

Dr. Rodrigue noted the bus company could route buses without adding vehicles or increasing ride length, but space sharing would be something to coordinate.

The other option would take place in multiple phases, the first starting in summer of 2022 to Christmas break, the second from Christmas to the April break of 2023, and the third staring in the April break and finishing in summer 2023.

At times, certain parts of the school would be inaccessible; students be be routed outside of the building via walkways.

Dr. Rodrigue called it the most unpredictable option as walls were erected to protect students and she recalled construction noise at the high school during classes. “Those are things we can’t really have promises for.”

She highlighted the need for safety as she noted the second option would be higher in terms of cost and time.

The final estimate is yet to be calculated; construction documents are about 90 percent complete.

Robert Mitchell, chair of the Public Building and Site Commission, said there has been careful consideration of costs for both options, although he thought the $800,000 difference might be optimistic.

He said the construction manager is pre-qualifying contractors to ensure that bids would hold and he expressed confidence in the documents and the amount of contingency funds being set. “Our ad hoc committee is going through them now.”

First Selectman Dan Rosenthal added, “It really is an education decision.”

The board discussed the recent price increases in the construction industry and how the project will be run with a guaranteed maximum price, expressing a preference for the first option and prioritizing education for the students.

The board will make a decision on this at its meeting on Tuesday, July 20, when estimates will be available and the public will have an opportunity to provide feedback.

The project is expected to go to voters on the November ballot.

In other business, Dr. Rodrigue commented on the hiring process and the fact that 15 district employees retired has made for a larger than usual number of new hires.

She thanked all principals for their work in identifying and interviewing candidates as she noted the high quality of incoming personnel.

There are some paraprofessional roles to fill, but Dr. Rodrigue said the district is well on the way to being fully staffed.

A new role for diversity, equity and inclusion may remain unfilled if the district does not find the right individual with the right qualifications; the interview committee did not feel the candidates to date were the right fit, but interviews will continue.

“We are hopeful we find a candidate during the coming weeks,” she said, noting there are candidates now going through the interview process.

The new turf and track at the high school is being installed as landscaping and painting take place on all campuses.

Dr. Rodrigue commended Robert C. Gerbert, Jr., director of facilities for the school district, and all custodial staff for their work in preparing the schools for the new year.

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