School board gets first look at proposed Sherman Elementary renovations, additions
Published 12:00 am, Friday, December 15, 2017
FAIRFIELD — Sherman Elementary School will see renovations and an addition move forward if the fiscal year 2019 school board capital budget is approved.
The school board went through for the first time Tuesday two capital projects — Sherman, and a renovation of Mill Hill Elementary School — totaling $4.7 million.
Sherman School was built in 1963 with a building capacity of 315 students. On Oct. 1, 2017, the school’s enrollment was at 470 students. The first phase of the project began in 2009 and saw the addition of the Annex Building. A second phase saw the partial renovation of the building.
Proposed capital non-recurring projects:
System-wide security infrastructure upgrades, $345,250
Secondary schools information technology electrical project, $200,000
Fairfield Ludlowe High School parking lot repaving, $275,000
System-wide information technology switch replacement project, $972,995
The third and, hopefully, final phase would see another partial renovation and addition to better accommodate the school’s faculty and students.
According to Fairfield Public School’s Executive Director of Operations Thomas Cullen, because the school is located in a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) protected area, the district has been limited in the work it can do.
“Due to the fact that school is located in a watercourse conservation area, FEMA regulated, if we wanted to do a very large project at Sherman Elementary School, $15, $20, $25-million, we would have to raise the building up eight to nine feet and meet a bunch of regulations through FEMA,” Cullen explained. “Because we haven’t been able to fund that or go in that direction, we’ve been doing Sherman in phases.”
As per FEMA regulations, the district can’t spend more than 50 percent of the building’s value — not including things like architectural engineering, survey and consulting fees, furniture, fixtures and equipment — in any given fiscal year, limiting the scope of projects proposed by the district each year.
Sherman is currently valued at $5.476 million, meaning the project would have to remain under $2.738 million for construction. With FEMA exemptions factored in, Cullen estimated the project cost about $2.5 million, causing some concern among the Board of Education that there was not enough of a cushion.
“I’ll be honest with you, the project has to happen, but I have serious concerns on some of the costs here being realistic,” said board member Nick Aysseh. “What do we do if we get into this and find that we’re really at a $3 million cost, FEMA regulated?”
“If we couldn’t afford to do everything,” Cullen explained, “We would have to do a phase four.”
The proposed $1.5 million Mill Hill Elementary School renovation project is also intended to meet enrollment needs and eliminate the five existing portable classrooms. The 1950s building also needs to be brought up to date on fire, building and health codes, as well as American with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. The money would fund an initial project team that would examine the site and creates design drawings and cost estimates for the town to consider.
“This will get the town to set up a building committee and it gives them enough money to get started by hiring the project team, which is the architects, engineers, environmentalists — the whole team,” said Cullen.
Though the actual renovation project has not yet been approved, Cullen estimated that the entirety of the upgrades to Mill Hill could cost between $18 and $25 million.
“It is a difficult site. We’re finding that a lot of the water, electrical feeds, gas feeds, everything that’s underground 60 or 70 years is needing to be replaced and upgraded,” Cullen explained.
However, Cullen and board members were clear that the approval of the project team does not mean the approval of the final project.
“This is to start the process, this is not locking us into anything,” said board member Jennifer Maxon-Kennelly.
Both items will be voted on at the next meeting of the Board of Education.