The Fairfield Board of Finance gave a passing grade Tuesday night to a $2.2 million bond appropriation for code work and core facilities upgrades at Sherman School.

The finance panel unanimously approved the request, much to the delight of parents in the audience, after about an hour and a half of discussion and questions. The funding still must be approved by the Representative Town Meeting.

The town recently added a modular annex to the Fern Street elementary school with the understanding that additional work on the core facilities, such as the lunchroom, would also be done. The work includes adding a second serving line in the cafeteria, a nurse's suite, special education rooms, a conference room, administrative offices and a new ventilation system.

A masonry wall in the school's foyer would also be taken down and windows installed to improve security.

"We need to give them the tools to do the job," said South Benson road resident Jonathan Adams. "These proposals go no further than the minimum."

And some of the renovations are limited, in part, because the school is in a flood plain and FEMA regulations will allow only that work the does not exceed 50 percent of the building's value, minus soft costs. The construction work is estimated at $1.9 million, with $267,000 for soft costs.

That scenario is also a reason the town will not seek any state reimbursement for the project. If the town did, according to Al Kelly, vice chairman of the Special Projects Building Committee, the state would require a new fire-suppression system that would increase the cost to $3.6 million. Planners would then have to cut some of the items that school officials feel are necessary in order to be under the FEMA cap.

Those factors would also delay the start of the project from this summer to the summer of 2012, because of the time needed to secure state approval.

"These are definitely needs, not wants," said Selectman James Walsh, a nearby resident of Pratt Street. Special education classes meet in converted closets and have no privacy, he said. "Their needs have to be a priority," he said.

Finance board member Michael Tetreau asked if the town's state legislative delegation could ask for special legislation for reimbursement, much like was done when McKinley School was rebuilt after its previous structure was infected by mold.

Fiscal Officer Paul Hiller said that was done because work started before the state approved the project, but the town was not seeking to be exempted from code requirements.