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BOE Supports Hawley HVAC Project Plan



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The Board of Education voted at a July 20 special meeting to support an option to relocate students for the 2022-23 school year during the completion of a Hawley Elementary School heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) project.

“This is definitely the best [option] for the kids,” Board of Education Vice Chair Dan Delia said after moving to approve the option over another that would have kept some students in the school while the project was underway. “It’s the safest, the healthiest, and it is the most conducive to learning. I’m in full support of this motion.”

As previously reported in The Newtown Bee, Superintendent of Schools Dr Lorrie Rodrigue outlined both “Option One” and “Option Two” for completing the Hawley HVAC project at the board’s July 6 meeting.

Option One would cost roughly $7.1 million and would be completed in a single phase, with students and staff relocated to Sandy Hook Elementary School and Reed Intermediate School. It would take nine months. Option Two would cost roughly $7.8 million, would be multi-phased, would require construction during the summer and school year, and would have some students attending school at Hawley during the project.

Concerns around Option Two include the need to still relocate some students, anticipated difficulty with busing and parking, and having students attending school at an active construction site.

The Public Building & Site Commission has oversight of the project, and the school board’s vote offered support for how it would like to see the project completed, assuming it is support by voters at referendum.

PBSC Chair Robert Mitchell told The Newtown Bee that he was notified of the decision following the meeting, and it was “great news.”

“It’s already on our next agenda,” Mitchell said, anticipating a quick affirmation of what was his commission’s optimal choice to expedite the Hawley project’s completion.

Following the school board’s July 20 vote, members reflected on just how long the Hawley HVAC project has been a possibility.

“There is really never an ideal time, I understand that, but this project... has been in motion for at least 12 years, maybe 15,” said board member Rebekah Harriman-Stites. “And I think this project goes to a safe and healthy learning environment for our students in the long run, so I feel that of all the options we have, this is the best possible option.”

A quick look through Newtown Bee archives found an October 2002 story, “Districtwide Committee To Look At HVAC Study.”

That story reported that five schools — Hawley Elementary School, Head O’ Meadow Elementary School, Middle Gate Elementary School, Newtown Middle School, and Sandy Hook School — needed heating and ventilation upgrades. In December 2005 The Newtown Bee reported, “The Board of Education spent a good portion of the year struggling to prioritize major issues, most notably the underbudgeted Hawley Elementary School heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) project and the exploding population at the high school.”

The project has been so long in coming because it has changed so drastically in scope and estimated costs over time. Once the Hawley project is completed, Middle Gate and Newtown Middle School will be in line for HVAC upgrades.

Hawley Principal Christopher Moretti spoke about the plan to relocate students for the duration of the HVAC project at the July 20 meeting. He and Dr Rodrigue shared that they had toured Sandy Hook School and Reed Intermediate School to see where Hawley’s students would be housed.

Moretti noted that the district has a year to prepare for the project, and highlighted the importance of having a committee look at all angles of completing it. The project, if completed with Option One, is expected to run from June 2022 to April 2023.

“My hope is that there are very few difficulties, very few problems, and before you know it, we are back at our home,” said Moretti.

Education Reporter Eliza Hallabeck can be reached at eliza@thebee.com.

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