Hybrid Plan Makes the Cut for Middle School

North Haven Middle School, built in 1960, is now slated for extensive reconstruction. An unknown quantity of mold and broken tiles and windows are a few parts of its crumbling infrastructure. Interim Assistant Principal Paul Castiglione, right, said the restoration and rebuilding is necessary and a long time in coming.
North Haven Middle School, built in 1960, is now slated for extensive reconstruction. An unknown quantity of mold and broken tiles and windows are a few parts of its crumbling infrastructure. Interim Assistant Principal Paul Castiglione, right, said the restoration and rebuilding is necessary and a long time in coming. Photo by Andrew Sullivan/The Courier

Plans to renovate the 54 year-old North Haven Middle School are moving ahead quickly.

Last week, residents voted to allow the North Haven Middle School Building Committee to go forward with the "hybrid option" to renovate the school by hiring an architect for the
$46.9 million project.

The hybrid option includes plans for a new school wing to be built, while still allowing classes and other school activities to be ongoing at the same time.

The option the town is moving forward with calls for a state reimbursement rate of 39.64 percent.

Building Committee Chairman Gary Johns said benefits of the approved option include maintaining the facility's close proximity to the high school, lack of impact to existing sports fields, and absence of exposure to asbestos and other materials during renovations.

First Selectman Mike Freda said he expects "to hold a townwide referendum vote on the entire project, probably in June."

Freda said it is his goal to "get the project done, because the school is in need of repair, but to do it with as little impact as possible to the taxpayer.

"Our good credit rating as a town will help us borrow money at attractive rates," Freda said, "but we will do everything possible to minimize costs. We've always budgeted frugally."

Last March, a feasibility report was submitted to the first selectman detailing the building committee's research.

The report outlined four options to improve the school, including renovation to an as-new-facility; use of the Gateway/Orchard Hill School facility; building of a new school; or renovation of most of the current school with the possibility of a new wing.

Committee members said the options of moving to Gateway or renovating "as-new" raised concerns about unknown property damage underneath walls and ceilings, disruption and displacement of sports programs, and unforeseen "school opening" dates.

Building Committee members, at last week's town meeting, presented a report by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges that showed the aging middle school was not up to educational standards.

The recommended updates include a new roof, repairing cracked windows, renovating outdated bathrooms and cafeterias, and remediating mold and water damage.

While much of the school is in need of renovations, Joe Costa, an official of a planning, design, and consulting firm hired for the report, said certain areas of the school were still usable.

"We'll be able to save the common areas like the auditorium and cafeteria, but the classrooms are in serious need of serious help," Costa said.

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