BETHEL Bethel schools redo plans, costs OK’d
BETHEL — The building committee on Tuesday night approved the final plans and cost estimates for the renovations to Rockwell and Johnson elementary schools.
The estimates keep the project on the $65.8 million budget voters approved last fall. Upgrades to Rockwell are projected to cost $24.7 million, while Johnson is estimated at $41.1 million. A state grant is covering 45 percent of eligible costs.
Rockwell was initially $90,000 over budget, but Public Site and Building Committee members eliminated panels on the second floor, bricks on a loading dock and other features to keep costs down.
School administrators will meet with state officials Wednesday for approval of the construction documents. With the state’s approval, the Rizzo Construction Company will seek bids for the project in November.
Committee members asked engineers to explore using a baseboard heating system instead of radiant heating panels, but this could change after the state approves.
Crews had planned to conduct abatement and install portable classrooms at Rockwell in the winter, but this work will now be done over the summer.
This means Rockwell students will not need to go into portable classrooms this spring, as initially proposed, Superintendent Christine Carver told Rockwell parents at a meeting Tuesday. A similar meeting to update Johnson parents is planned for Nov. 13. Portable classrooms will not be at Johnson.
Carver said nearly all removal of asbestos and small amounts of PCBs and lead at Rockwell can be completed over the summer, but some of that work could be done during the school year.
Jim Twitchell, an environmental consultant from Hygenix Inc, said students and staff would not be in the part of the school that is being cleaned up. Barriers, fences and signs would prevent children or teachers from wandering into the area, he said.
Per the latest plans, work on the second floor of Rockwell will begin in June and end in December, with the renovations of the first floor starting in January 2020 and finishing at the end of August.
The Rockwell main office will be worked on this summer, while the nurse’s office, custodial area, bus loop and parking lot will be done from April 2020 until the end of August. Rockwell’s cafeteria, kitchen and gym will also be completed during the summer of 2020.
To provide more construction time without the students in school, this summer is scheduled to be about 12 weeks, with the last day of school set for June 7, with students returning Sept. 3.
Carver has already warned parents and staff that school could be held on Feb. 18 and Feb. 19 if too many snow days accumulate.
“We need that construction time in the summer,” she said.
Carver assured parents that construction workers would undergo background checks and park at the old police station, not on the school campus.
“Construction workers will never be with children,” she said.
Parents said at Tuesday’s meeting said they are looking forward to the upgrades and had few concerns with the plan.
“I’m thrilled,” said Nancy Goldstein, who has children in second and fifth grades. “The schools really are in need of it. Even though the process might be challenging at times, I think that it’s really important that the schools are upgraded and optimal for learning.”