More study needed: Vote postponed by selectmen on $11.6M Ludlowe project
Updated 9:07 pm, Thursday, May 2, 2013
The selectmen, however, expect to vote on the proposal at their May 15 meeting, when they also expect to vote on the $15.1 million expansion plan proposed for Riverfield Elementary School.
The Ludowe plan calls for replacing about 85 percent of the building's windows, as well as doors, repairing more than 100,000 square feet of roof, adding four general classrooms, two science labs, expansion of the cafeteria, relocation of the faculty lounge and a student lounge for seniors.
According to Board of Education officials, the Unquowa Road high school is built to accommodate 1,400 students and currently exceeds that capacity with enrollment of 1,525. Enrollment is expected to grow to more than 1,700 by 2016.
"We're not overbuilding," Superintendent of Schools David Title said. "These kids are in the system now."
First Selectman Michael Tetreau questioned whether it wouldn't make more sense financially to redraw the home districts for the town's two high schools, and move more students to Fairfield Warde High School.
"In dollars per student," Tetreau said, of the Ludlowe proposal, "that sounds like a lot."
But Title said the bulk of the project's cost is for replacing the roofs and windows, which would have to be done whether the classrooms are added or not. He said housing more students at Warde, which also has a 1,400-student capacity, would simply shift the overcrowding problem.
Enrollment at Warde is also growing, Title said, and at this point, is in a better position to handle its higher enrollment, though he said the school will still be crowded.
"Both are at or above capacity," the superintendent said.
Re-assigning students to Warde was supported by the one audience member who addressed the selectmen.
"I do have a lot of concerns," said Betty Ann O'Shaughnessy of Queens Grant Road. "Warde handled 1,800 students very well." She also said more room could be recouped at Warde by relocating the Early Childhood Center elsewhere.
Tetreau asked about the window-replacement portion of the Ludlowe project, which was first proposed in 2009. Back then, he said, the cost estimate was $3 million before it was referred to the Town Facilities Commission for review. The TFC questioned the number of windows tagged for replacement as well as the projected cost, recommending only 51 percent of the windows need to be replaced.
"The PCBs trumped all the other studies," Title said, noting that any windows with PCBs -- a potential carcinogen -- in the grout have to be replaced. The remediation of PCBs in window caulking is pegged to cost about $750,000. The more serious issue of airborne PCBs, as was discovered last year at Osborn Hill School, is not a problem at Ludlowe, officials said.
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