Year In Review: Planning, And Breaking Ground, For A New School
2014 was a positive planning year for the new Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Consigli Construction oversaw the demolition of the old Sandy Hook School in the fall of 2013, and by 2014 plans for the new building were taking shape, following community input and work between the town and design team, led by Svigals + Partners.
In January a new website, SandyHook2016.com, was launched to provide the public with updates on building the new elementary school. According to First Selectman Pat Llodra, the website was created to provide project updates, a look into the design process, and a photo feed of the project under construction.
The start of the year also saw the town continuing to offer proposals, which would be rejected, to the owners of an adjacent property in the hopes of providing an optimal alternative entryway for the new Sandy Hook School.
Three design schemes were presented by Svigals + Partners to members of the Public Building & Site Commission (PBSC) and the Board of Education (BOE) at a February 11 joint meeting. Members of both boards described one of the three design schemes for the new school as elegant, efficient, and simple.
Each design had a realigned driveway, starting where the old entrance began off Dickinson Drive but branching off from it later, looping closer to the Newtown Senior Center/Children’s Adventure Center property on Riverside Road. Each design also had the school building placed at the southern end of the property, farther back from where the former school sat. Julia McFadden, Svigals + Partners associate principal and project manager for the Sandy Hook School project, said the orientation of the new property design will create better vehicle circulation and allow for a larger parking area.
“What you are seeing here today isn’t a creative idea we pulled out of a hat,” Ms McFadden said at the February 11 meeting, “but it really is born out of the process that we have been engaging with you in over the last four months — learning about Sandy Hook and the town of Newtown and using that, as well as the specific place of the site, to really speak to how this building wants to be sited on the site and make the most of the opportunities that exist for this place.”
A week later, representatives of Svigals + Partners were back before PBSC and the BOE with more concepts. Ms McFadden shared that local buildings, the “natural environment” of Newtown and Sandy Hook, and steeples rising over hills and trees were all inspiration for the design.
Svigals + Partners Principal Barry Svigals spoke with The Bee after the second presentation to the two boards.
“Architects and creative minds often find their inspiration drawn from our affinity to nature — and an affinity to life itself,” he said. “The trees, waters, and other natural features surrounding our projects are a cyclically renewing factor of our business.”
Tied To The Community
Ahead of a June 5 presentation for the town on the plans for the school, Svigals + Partners unveiled some of the first renderings of the new building based on the chosen plan during another PBSC-BOE joint meeting, on May 14.
Jay Brotman of Svigals + Partners presented a topographic design for the layout of the property during the meeting, with the school farther back on the site than it was before. He explained that as cars approach the building, at the highest part of the expected drive, people will see “the arms [of the school] outreaching and embracing you as you come in.”
The building is planned to have one long “main street” corridor with wings, or streets, off of it for different grade level classrooms.
Four renderings were shared showing a planned main courtyard, the main entrance as students arrive off buses, the main lobby, and the building as it would look when approached from the driveway.
In June, Mr Svigals told The Newtown Bee he has never seen a public project that was so influenced by so many voices, and resulting in a concept that was so organically tied to its community.
About three dozen town residents attended a June 5 forum, which included First Selectman Pat Llodra, School Superintendent of Schools Joseph V. Erardi, Jr, and a large representation from Svigals + Partners and Diversified Project Management. DPM is a firm that has been hired to spearhead the management of the school building project.
Following an hourlong briefing by members of the Sandy Hook School Design Team on July 8, members of PBSC unanimously approved accepting construction plans and cost estimates, and voted to forward those documents to the state for final approval. The PBSC is serving as the School Building Committee on behalf of the town.
The school will include three classroom wings, two of which are two stories that overlook central courtyards. Breakout spaces in the form of “tree houses” will be built to create an alternate learning environment. The new school will incorporate the most current and advanced educational approaches, security, and design.
Blues, greens, tans, and grays will make up the primary colors of the proposed interior and exterior materials for use in the new Sandy Hook School, and all were presented to the Board of Education at its meeting September 16. Also during that meeting, the school board heard an update on continued work on the third phase of the building project from Geralyn Hoerauf of Diversified Project Management and Aaron Krueger, project manager for Consigli Construction.
By October, the school board had also approved the fourth phase of the project to be forwarded to the state for approval. By the end of the month, Consigli Construction reportedly broke ground for the new 87,000-square-foot state-of-the-art Sandy Hook School.
Anthony Consigli, president of the construction company, said he and his company are “very aware of how much this new school means to the people of Newtown.
“We hope that as it takes shape, it will contribute to the continued renewal of the Sandy Hook community. This project is about much more than a new building,” he said.
The PBSC voted on November 12 to approve the Phase 4 documents for the new school. The decision paved the way for that portion of the project to go out to bid.
The Newtown Bee will continue to follow updates on the Sandy Hook School building project throughout 2015.