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School board backs $11.6M 'ed specs' for Fairfield Ludlowe High

Updated 7:58 pm, Thursday, February 28, 2013
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Educational specifications for proposed expansion and improvements to Fairfield Ludlowe High School, at a cost of over $11.6 million, were approved Tuesday by the Board of Education.

By a vote of 7-1, the board approved adding a cafeteria, two science labs and four classrooms to accommodate a projected enrollment increase at a cost of $3,809,750 and replacing the windows for $2,825,000.

It also endorsed spending $2,640,000 to replace the roof, $360,000 on furniture, fixtures and equipment and $1,995,950 on soft costs, bringing the total cost to $11,630,700.

The board decided not to include spending $1,175,000 on lavatory renovations and $8,630,775 on air conditioning.

The decision to eliminate those features was made in light of other large costs facing the school district, such as an estimated $13 million to expand Riverfield Elementary School and almost $4.2 million to clean up PCBs at Osborn Hill Elementary School.

The total Ludlowe High project, to be paid for and completed over a few years if approved by town bodies, would have cost $23,411,130 if fully implemented, including $3,970,605 in soft costs.

Board member Tim Kery asked if replacing the roof was a priority, given that part of it blew off during a January windstorm.

The existing roof, installed in 1991 and several years beyond its warranty, is "aging and becoming problematic," said Sal Morabito, Fairfield schools' manager of construction, security and safety.

A section of the roof was blown off a wing of the Unquowa Road building last month during a windstorm.

Work was done to the roof five years ago, but it is coming the end of its life, Morabito said.

Superintendent of Schools David Title noted, however, that the "educational need for expanding that school is urgent."

He said that the lavatory renovations could be taken out of the project, but suggested that the board recommend funding for all the other improvements.

According to a draft specifications document discussed at a mid-January board meeting, the high school's current enrollment of 1,552 students is 10.8 percent over its existing capacity for 1,400 students. The enrollment is projected to be 22.7 percent over its 2016-17 capacity designed for 1,525 students with the number of students expected to reach 1,718 that year.

The higher designed capacity for 1,525 pupils reflects an enrollment increase as a result of the proposed addition outlined in the specifications.

The school needs a new roof and new windows, but other options to address the space issue should be considered rather than expansion, said board member Perry Liu, who voted against approving the specifications.

Board member Sue Brand was absent Tuesday.

During discussion of the school's air quality and air conditioning, Greg Hatzis, the Ludlowe High headmaster, said some rooms on the school's south side of all windows get hot during the beginning and end of the school year.

"There are some days that are pretty difficult to run a class room with the level of heat that the staff and students experience," he said.

Tom Cullen, the schools' director of operations, said the new windows would have a film on them to reduce heat generated by the sun.

The "ed specs" were formulated following a request to the Board of Selectmen to set up a building committee for expanding the cafeteria and adding classroom space to address overcrowding.

The proposed educational specifications will now be acted on by the boards of selectmen and finance and the Representative Town Meeting. If the project ultimately wins approval, the town would be eligible for roughly 20 percent reimbursement of the costs from the state.

mjuliano@bcnnew.com; 203-255-4561, ext. 112; twitter.com/mjulianoadv