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School Board Moves Forward with $11.6M Fairfield Ludlowe Project

The project will next go to the Board of Selectmen.

The Board of Education approved educational specifications for the Fairfield Ludlowe High School expansion and upgrade project, which carries an estimated price tag of $11.6 million.

The approved "ed specs" include:

  • Expansion of the cafeteria and the addition of two science labs and four general purpose classrooms to address increased enrollment: $3,809,750
  • Replacement of windows with high efficiency units: $2,825,000
  • Replacement of the roof, a portion of which was blown off during last month's windstorm, and which has surpassed its 15-year warranty by seven years: $2,640,000

The $11,630,700 total price also includes soft costs (like architectural and engineering fees) and funds for fixtures, furniture, and equipment. The spending -- if authorized by all town bodies -- would be spread out over a few years, Superintendent of Schools Dr. David Title said, because the project would take that long to be completed.

The board chose to hold off on the lavatory renovations, which would have cost about $1,175,000 and decided not to include the $8,630,775 to add air conditioning to the entire school.

The latter is not part of the district's long-range plan for Fairfield Ludlowe High School, but board members had requested the information after hearing about air quality complaints from teachers and parents.

There are some rooms on the second and third floors of the school that get uncomfortably hot during the first few weeks of school and again at the end of the school year, Fairfield Ludlowe High School Headmaster Greg Hatzis said.

Ludlowe PTA President Cathy Coyle added that there are times during the summer when teachers' hair "is plastered with sweat."

"They work through it, but it's not optimal."

The replacement of the windows should help ease the heat during the summer, Director of Operations Thomas Cullen said -- but a project to upgrade the HVAC system at the school could come in the future.

The proposed additional classrooms and expanded cafeteria will include air conditioning, which is required for new school additions, project architect Bill Silver said.

The board approved the ed specs in a 7-1 vote -- member Sue Brand was absent and Perry Liu opposed.

"I cannot vote for this. I think we need a new roof and we need to replace the windows, but adding space without exploring options -- I cannot vote for this," Liu said.

Both he and resident Suzanne Miska said the district needs to look into other options to address Ludlowe's increased enrollment concerns -- including redistricting -- before deciding to add on to the school.

Board Secretary Jessica Gerber told the board that the difference in the number of students next school year between Fairfield Ludlowe and Fairfield Warde high schools is 122 -- not enough to make sense of redistricting, she said.

Discussion of the project will continue at a future Board of Selectmen meeting -- the ed specs must be approved by the selectmen, the Board of Finance, and the Representative Town meeting before the funding is authorized.

Brian February 27, 2013 at 12:22 PM
I just wonder how well the roof held up during last night's and today's rain. That work seems like a no brainer. Some windows have been there since the 70's and earlier. Wonder how many residents and local businesses still have these relics. That said, the chances of finding hazardous materials in the calking and framing is real. Will the abatement of those problems drive the cost higher? What's the reluctance to redistricting in town? Would that drive transportation costs a great deal? As for AC, I can say from experience opening the classroom windows on Ludlow's third floor on warm days to "cool" the space is like letting in the sirocco. Maybe Board members should take a field trip and visit when the weather gets a bit toastier.
Joeseph Biff February 27, 2013 at 12:58 PM
Our selectman said the latest budget proposal will be the end of high tax increases. Not so according to this article.
Faith February 27, 2013 at 01:11 PM
It's not cost effective to redistrict for 122 students so the alternative is an $11 million renovation to a school that was renovated 10 years ago ?How large will the imbalance of students be next year and the year after? The big deal about redistricting is that we allow the parents to turn it into a big deal. Figure it out, tell everyone where they're going next year and tell the kids it's a learning experience when they're young on how to adapt. If you don't learn now it's harder later.
LMT February 27, 2013 at 01:36 PM
Students report that there is no need to expand the cafeteria, but there is a GREAT need for more classroom space. Teachers report that more than 4 classrooms and 2 science labs are need for optimal use of educational time as many minutes are wasted cleaning up in one classroom to fight crowds getting to another classroom and set up in that room. Sometimes those other classrooms are on the opposite side of the building. Teachers also report that the HVAC system is of utmost priority and are disappointed that this is not being considered as part of the project. The air quality is very poor, and temperatures vary greatly from one room to another. Teachers have to open windows in winter to cool down their overly hot classrooms as they have no thermostats to control temperatures, while other classrooms are uncomfortably cool with no way to raise the temperature. When weather gets hot, the classrooms are unbearable at times, especially on the 2nd and 3rd floor. Some rooms are air conditioned while others right down the hall are not...this makes absolutely no sense!!! The building has been added on to so many times that the system DOES NOT work properly or efficiently. Taxpayer dollars are going "out the window" literally because of this poor system!!
Christine Vitale February 27, 2013 at 03:30 PM
I understand the that cost of the HVAC system is very significant, but there is an air quality problem at FLHS, anyone who has been in that building for a significant amount of time can attest to that. I understand the BOE's reluctance to ask for that funding, but make no mistake, a big problem is being ignored. Let's just hope that, like so many other projects that are not addressed early on, this problem doesn't come back with even higher cost ramifications. Also, I do believe the heat is effecting the educational outcomes of our students. Overheated, sweating teachers are not going to be at the top of their game, and I don't envy those kids taking finals on the 2nd floor of FLHS during the third week of June. The heat is going to effect their concentration. As far as not doing the bathroom renovations now, I think that is very short sighted. Enrollment is increasing. More students will be using the lavatories. The lavatories are not ADA compliant. I was disappointed at how quickly the BOE disregarded the importance of making our schools accessible to all students, especially when at a time when renovations are being done. It a shame that it will take something like a lawsuit, or a change in state statute, to force this issue. At the very least, I hope other town bodies will recognize the importance of updated bathrooms and having bathrooms throughout the school that are ADA compliant.
Anonymous February 27, 2013 at 05:02 PM
I am not surprised to read that students don't think there is a need for extra cafeteria space - since it seems most of them opt to not have lunch and take a class instead. I am for expanding the cafeteria and instituting a system whereby every student is afforded time for a lunch during the day. It's no wonder our children are stressed out and feel pressure - especially when the school doesn't even have the space for every student to have lunch - and it seems the administration turns a blind eye to the fact that their students are eating in the classroom while trying to learn. This is not healthy at all.
KRT February 27, 2013 at 08:04 PM
@faith, you are correct regarding parents, however there is more than that at issue here. Warde is at capacity and projected to be overcapacity as well. So if you move the 122 kids to Warde you just moved the problem somewhere else. So if you want to equalize the two schools you would move 61 kids. How do you make the split to get exactly 61 to fit the model since neighborhoods are constantly evolving. You would need to redistrict every year. That's why it's not effective for this situation. However in other past instances you are correct.
Ajack February 27, 2013 at 09:07 PM
There are students who can not breath well as they go into some parts of the Ludlowe High School building! Read Dr. Richard Schumacker's book, 'MOLD WARRIORS', it's an eye opener and could be the reason some kids are chronically sick. There is a mold problem possibly at Ludlowe. and that needs to be fixed also. The air-conditioning might make the school healthier for the kids. There's Federal money and possibly even private money form some big private players ( G.E.?) who would be in charge of air quality for a fee. Have to think creativity here and get the work done correctly and within budget. There may be ways to do this where the people of Fairfield don't put out any money upfront. I am one who advocates tough spending cuts and heavy budgeting restraints.. However, that being said, you don't want to create another McKinley School situation for the kids and for the teachers and staff. Staff have complained that they get headaches when it rains and on damp days. That could be a mold problem. We don't want sick kids or town employees either. . Remember what happened at McKinley. The kids have to be safe.Our town employees have to be safe.
Ajack February 27, 2013 at 09:22 PM
This town has a nasty habit/reputation of not walking the walk when it comes to disability rights and such. I would be surprised if there was any movement of protecting the kids from a potential health hazard.Highest number of law suites of 'ANY TOWN IN THE STATE either filed by it against parents concerning their kids and highest number filed against it by disgruntled parents in the name of their kids.THE HIGHEST!!!!!!That fact alone alone tells you a lot. Salaries are address with the utmost concern and expediency , increases and benefits etc. When it comes to complying to the Federal Law, Special Education , along with the School District in general often has to be pulled kicking and screaming to meet the needs of the kids in need. They find legal 'loopholes' create new 'policies' to help them succeed in denying what parents and their support people deem is necessary for the health and safety In quite a few cases , kids may have been neglected and mistreated, more than most know about. Yet, 'ants go marching' and the administrative heads of the various sectors make sure they get taken care of , taken care of substantially!!!!
just sayin' February 28, 2013 at 03:39 AM
One reason why Warde is "at capacity" is because the early childhood center and a pre-school are housed there. Relocate those programs and Warde has ample square footage to house half of the town's high school students.
Christine Vitale February 28, 2013 at 06:04 PM
@just sayin. The space that the ECC is using at Warde was sdesigned to be an early childhood center. Not too long ago, a good amount of money was put into renovating that space (not to mention the money that was just spent last year to install a new playground). It is the perfect space for what it is being used for. By moving it, you would need to renovate the space again to conform to what the high school needs, you would then need to find new space for the ECC. The ECC provides services to preschoolers with special needs, so the new facility would need to have space for speech, OT, PT etc, so renovations might need to be done at the new space as well. Also, I could be wrong, but I think the space issues at Warde might be in areas like the cafeteria/kitchen, which the would not be solved by taking over the space at the ECC. There would be significant costs involved. May seem like an easy fix, but it isn't. Like it or not, FLHS needs to be renovated. This is not a surprise; the town has known there were going to be space issues there for years. Now is the time to take action, and I thank the BOE for pushing a plan forward. It is too bad that cost takes a new HVAC system off the table, as it is needed. Replacing bathrooms that are non ADA compliant, and 50 years old--that seems like it should be part of this renovation though--especially if the state will be providing some reimbursement on the whole project. Get as much done now as possible.
LMT February 28, 2013 at 09:42 PM
@just sayin', Ludlowe also houses an early childhood center and a pre-school.
Ajack March 01, 2013 at 12:08 PM
That's right, keep supporting an educational system that is producing diminishing results. We keep trying to prop up an educational method with increasing tax revenues that is proving and will prove to be even more counterproductive in the long run to the needs of the people. People in our educational industry will continue to point at their 'successes' and continue to hide their failures, which is the case with education in this town as we know it today. Diminishing returns for increasing costs. The people of Fairfield and the rest of the country are so ingrained that this system works ,that it must work, that they can not see that it isn't working .....for anyone ...well anymore. We are throwing our money after bad if we keep thinking that what the Board of Education throws at you , the citizens , is the future . It is not. Increasingly, our school system has 'weeded' out the undesirable, using nefarious tactics , such as providing substandard care to those in most need of help.. Call it educational eugenics of a sort. Like our economic mess, which is a result of the have's, not wanting to play by rules that inhibit what they want in life, our educational system has become a method unto itself. It now serves more the rich and the educational ruling elite, the administrators. Not bad if it wasn't on the tax payers dime , which it is. But it is and the tax payers in this town are fed up with it and want change. The lie is that you get a great deal in this town. You don't
momof3 March 01, 2013 at 06:25 PM
@Ajack--this isn't about the educational system as much as it is about building that is in need of maintenance, It needs a new roof. It needs new windows. It needs updates to its bathrooms and HVAC systems. It needs space to accommodate the increasing number of kids who crowd is halls. If your home had these types of issues, wouldn't you address them? When will this town learn that putting off maintenance projects, or not doing them right in order save some money, only ends up costing more in the end? Make the investment now and do it right. Regardless of what you may feel about the BOE and central office, our kids deserve to go to school in a building that doesn't have a leaking roof and PCBs in the window caulking, They deserve to a science lab so that they may properly learn science. Please don't block this renovation because you have issues with central office or the BOE--it wouldn't be fair to the growing number of students that attend that school.
Joeseph Biff March 01, 2013 at 07:25 PM
momof3, You keep saying "when will this town",when in fact It is the very same mismanaged,inept, BOE that you're talking about which is to blame for the current situation.You make it sound as though the citizens themselves are to blame.You will most likely breath in some PCBs today.They are in more places than you think.Even in the food you eat.The amount the kids are exposed to in nill.This is plain old hysteria .Think of all the older homes,stores and variuos buildings you visit.
momof3 March 01, 2013 at 08:22 PM
Mr. Biff, Can't blame BOE for increased enrollment at both high schools. Ultimately, it will be other town bodies who will vote to approve funding for this project (or not). Citizens do have a say. If they support this renovation, they can let their RTM member know--just as they let their RTM member know when they want cuts made to the BOE budget or don't want money spent on schools. Also, the BOE does not oversee building projects. Town does. Other town officials made decisions about past renovations. You can't blame the current BOE for bad decisions regarding past school renovation problems. As far as PCBS--they were not used in building materials of residential homes. Yes, they are around us in the environment, but kids are more at risk than adults, and while we might be exposed to PCBs in the food we eat and the water we swim in; these kids are sitting in classrooms and are exposed daily. There is a difference--also the windows are old, not energy efficient. Many don't even open. Really no one is to blame for current situation, buildings age. People with kids move into town. Maybe past BOEs could have foreseen increase in enrollment, but all that would have done was increased the size of the last renovation.
Joeseph Biff March 02, 2013 at 12:40 PM
It is however up the BOE to approve or not approve proposed expansions,improvement,etc. before they can move on to other town bodies.Therefore,the BOE is the key player in getting the ball roliing as far as increased spending is concerned.I sight a recent article in the Fairfield Citizen News. A recent proposal was approved by the BOE by a vote of 7-1.If it had been voted down by the board however,that most likely would be the end of that. PCBs were used in fluorescent light fixtures(ballasts),and electrical components such as transformers .Many homes and buildings still have these components.Example:Your door bell operarates at a low voltage due to a transformer which is mounted near your elecrical service panel.I know this because I am a retired electrician.

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