FAIRFIELD — A year after its establishment, the Mill Hill School Building Committee is finally beginning the process of renovating the elementary school.

Since its formation in July 2018, the committee has been engaged in a lengthy process of determining the size of the school. The Board of Selectmen charged them with putting together proposals for 304, 441 and 504 capacity models, leading to a long research process and heated town meetings.

The Representative Town Meeting approved a 441-capacity school on June 24, allocating $22 million in funding for construction. In a debate falling largely along party lines, RTM members disputed the relative merits of 441 and 504 options.

Many Democrats advocated for a 504 school that could accommodate a growing student body and address racial imbalance issue at McKinley School, while some Republicans argued neither enrollment projections nor a redistricting plan supported these claims.

The Democratic-majority RTM ultimately voted unanimously to approving the funding resolution, with many reluctant but citing looming deadlines.

With a 441-capacity school confirmed, the Mill Hill Building Committee can finally begin formulating building plans. According to Committee Chair Tom Quinn, they plan to start the bidding process in December and have shovels in the ground by June. The renovations, he said, should be completed by November 2021.

Renovations to the 60-year-old building will be extensive, but will be rolled out in phases so that school operations can continue with relative normalcy. To do so, the committee will employ a similar process to that used during renovations to Riverfield and Holland Hill Elementary schools.

During the first phase, students will remain in Mill Hill’s current classrooms while three additional classrooms are built onto the school, increasing its total area by nearly 15,000 square feet.

This will ultimately bring the total amount of classrooms up from 18 to 21, with 21 students per class, increasing the total capacity from 378 to 441.

In the second phase of construction, students will be phased out of existing classrooms and into new ones, allowing for current classrooms to be refurbished. This will include the installation of new lights, cubbyholes and plumbing, as well as repainting.

Additional renovations will update the school’s facilities to current health, welfare, safety and fire codes, as well as install and improve school security systems. Plans also include installing a sprinkler system and HVAC fresh air and air conditioning, replacing hallway lighting and lockers and updating bathrooms.

Quinn also noted the committee plans to make significant traffic and parking changes, increasing the number of parking spaces from 96 to 116.

“We hope this will alleviate some of the traffic issues, and it will create a safer environment,” Quinn said.

Having served as chair of both Riverfield and Holland Hill’s school building committees, Quinn is prepared to lead Mill Hill’s renovations. Although each school brings its own unique set of challenges, Quinn said, every such project has the same essential goals.

“The parents are all different in every school, but they all want the same bottom line, and that’s a nice environment for their kids,” Quinn said. “It’s just a question of how we get there.”

rscharf@hearstmediact.com