WALLINGFORD — The Board of Education is almost at the point of making a decision on whether to consolidate the town’s two high schools, reviewing a plan Monday to build a new high school on the Lyman Hall High School property.
The school board’s operations committee, which includes all board members, heard a presentation from representatives of Hamden-based architectural firm Silver Petrucelli on the results of a consolidation feasibility study.
The total project cost would be an estimated $187,115,480, with construction costs coming in at $154,961,060.
With the estimated state reimbursement of $82,199,830, the cost to the town would be $104,915,650.
After the presentation, School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo, who is planning to leave for another position at the end of the school year, recommended that the board make a decision sooner rather than later on whether to build one new high school.
“I think it would behoove the board to make that decision,” he said, “so that further discussions can occur, and also that the new superintendent who is appointed, he or she has somewhat of a game plan as to what to do moving forward.”
Board member Erin Corso suggested taking consensus that evening on moving to one high school.
Tammy Raccio seconded the motion, saying she wanted to move something forward, because the board will have to explain to the Town Council the details of any project they choose, whether it’s to renovate both high schools or consolidate into one new building.
“At some point, we have to bring something to the Town Council,” she said. “It may not be the final product. We may go and say we want one high school. The Town Council — they have the pocketbook — they may say, ‘no, we don't want one high school, it's going to stay two, and we’ll renovate, and we’ll eat whatever the state doesn't want to put in.’ But the buildings need work and our students deserve better.”
Several members, including Ray Ross, Mike Votto and Patrick Reynolds, said they were not ready to move forward immediately after the presentation, needing time to digest what they just heard.
Corso said that since there was no consensus vote, she wanted a commitment from the board to vote at the next operations committee meeting.
“We've been discussing it since 2018,” she said. “I just feel as though we need to move. We need to make decisions. And I agree with Dr. Menzo that, I think it's better that a new superintendent coming in inherits a plan, or an idea, that everybody has agreed upon.”Current buildings
Michelle Miller, Silver Petrucelli educational designer, talked about the conceptual plan for 1,707 students in a new, 334,193 square foot high school on the 90-acre Lyman Hall campus.
The current building, built 1957, is about 180,000 square feet. The current student enrollment is 1,039 with 137 staff members.
There are 208 student parking spaces and 138 for staff, and room for approximately 18 buses.
The new school building would absorb Sheehan High School’s student population, currently 756, and 104 staff members.
Sheehan, built in 1971, is the school district’s newest building, although from 1998 to 2008, this district invested $71 million on building upgrades, which covered the high schools, middle schools and seven elementary schools, Menzo said.
The Vernon E. Cleaves Agriculture Science and Technology building at Lyman Hall — which houses the program often referred to by it’s former name of vocational agriculture, or vo-ag — is newer, but 90 percent state reimbursed.Details of one new school plan
Miller presented details about the new school plan.
The school layout was designed for 24 students per classroom. Special education would receive four general classrooms, a medically fragile room, an intervention room, six offices and 8,000 square feet for the Alternative Route to Success (ARTS) alternative high school program.
The media center, including a maker space and TV studio, would be 7,300 square feet. Rooms for art, music, tech education, culinary arts and business classes would be 44,050 square feet.
The plans include two 10,000-square-foot gymnasiums, a swimming pool and new field house to sell concessions at athletic events.
The cafeteria and food service support areas would total 15,000 square feet.
The auditorium would have a seating area of 10,000 square feet, which is large enough to seat about half of the school, Miller said.
The stage and back of the house would add 4,000 square feet, for a total auditorium size of 14,000 square feet.
The new athletic fields would incorporate the existing football field.
Stein said considerations include disruption to education, construction phasing, space and energy efficiency, full air conditioning, vents and solar panels, school safety and security, athletics and parking, relocating the vo-ag barn, minimizing wetlands impact and limiting hazmat impact from building demolition.
Stein also discussed air ventilation and COVID-19.
“As you can imagine with COVID,” Stein said, “we are extremely sensitive about air ventilation. The systems are now moving towards even a more complex system than we may have considered before, where we may just have added air conditioning and some air movement, now we are looking at much more dedicated outdoor air.”