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School Board Reviews Timeframe For Improvements And Year-End Financial Report



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School Board Reviews Timeframe For

Improvements And Year-End Financial Report

By Eliza Hallabeck

A timeframe for different improvement projects in multiple Newtown schools was brought up at the Board of Education meeting August 12, along with the review of the Year-end Financial Report.

Last November, the Board of Education approved a Capital Improvement Plan that was reevaluated by the board during its meeting last week. The improvements proposed by the plan include heating and ventilating systems for Hawley School, Sandy Hook School, and Middle Gate School and two roof projects at Newtown Middle School, among other improvements.

As approved by the Board of Education in November, the different projects needed for improvement in the schools have been prioritized, but at the meeting last Tuesday night in the Reed Intermediate library, arguments were made to reevaluate the importance of the different projects.

“We always want to keep these projects before the community,” said School District Business Manager Ron Bienkowski. He added the projects do not always get completed because of financial restraints, but it is important to remind the board and the community that they need to be completed.

Mr Bienkowski said the reevaluated timeline for the projects could save money, because they will not be completed all at once. He noted that with the Newtown High School expansion project budget being over budget, it is important for the Board of Education to monitor the costs of the other projects that the district will need improved over the next couple of years.

The first project on the Capital Improvement Plan list is a heating and ventilating system at Hawley School. Sandy Hook School and Middle Gate School will also be getting heating and ventilating systems over the next couple of years, but the plan holds the project at Hawley School as “urgent.” The heating and ventilating situations at the other schools are seen as “needed.”

Mr Bienkowski said, during the meeting, that multiple projects in one year is not feasible economically or physically.

Board of Education member David Nanavaty said temperatures at Hawley School have been measured at more than 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and he added that teachers have been opening windows and turning on fans to help air circulation.

“It would be great if we could do all these things sooner rather than later,” said Mr Bienkowski, “but they need to be prioritized somehow.”

The heating and ventilating system at Hawley School alone will total more than $8 million, as adjusted by Mr Bienkowski for inflation. The total estimate for the heating and ventilating systems at all three elementary schools exceeds $15 million.

The estimated costs are based on the advice from Fletcher-Thompson and Consulting Engineering Services, according to a memorandum written by Mr Bienkowski for the Board of Education, and the project costs have been inflated by eight percent to reflect inflation.

Board of Education member Kathy Fetchick questioned the importance the projects have been given, because she said the two roof replacement projects at the Newtown Middle School might need to be looked into before the heating and ventilating systems.

“I guess I’m really concerned with which issue is more prominent,” said Ms Fetchick.

The Sloped Roof Replacement project and the Flat Roof Replacement project at the Newtown Middle School are concerns because of leaks in the ceilings, and Ms Fetchick asked if the roofs are checked as often as the state requires for air quality control.

According to Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson, the air quality is checked often, and there is no need to be concerned about mold or other complications from the leaks.

“I’d hate to see a building fall down and the damage could be much worse,” said Ms Fetchick.

Mr Nanavaty said the health issue at Hawley with the high temperatures is an issue, because students cannot learn in those conditions.

“It seems like we are caught between a rock and a hard place,” said Board of Education Chairman Elaine McClure. She added that by the time some of the projects are completed, the initial study of the projects will be ten years old.

During the review of the Year-end Financial Report, which reflects the unaudited year-end financial position of Newtown Public Schools, Mr Bienkowski said the district finished the year with a positive balance of more than $7,000, and that money will be returned to the town.

“If we do things in-house, then they won’t show up on that list,” said Mr Bienkowski, “but we really have actually gotten them done.”

He said projects like adding security cameras for the Newtown Middle School were not in the budget at the start of the year, but they needed to be done. The cost of this is not reflected in the report, he said, because they were a “as needed” item.

“I think it helps for the public to see how many projects we are doing,” said Ms McClure. She also said that the projects that are not shown in the report tend to be finished in pieces, because they can not be afforded all at once.

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