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North Stonington - The Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday night to approve a nearly $47 million renovation of the district's school facilities, moving forward a long-awaited project that has stalled for more than a decade.
The $46,990,000 project - designed by Rusty Malik of Quisenberry Arcari Architects - would build a new gymnasium/auditorium on the north side of Route 2, while the old gym and central office could revert to the town for alternate municipal programs.
The plan calls for an additional 30,050 square feet of space for Wheeler Middle School/High School and would cost about $28.85 million in all. The town's share of the cost could be as low as $16.22 million or as high as $20 million, depending on how much the state reimburses the town.
Additions to Wheeler would include new science labs, a new cafeteria and kitchen, a secure main entrance and space for the music program. The lower level of the building would house the middle school, while a second floor would house the high school.
The renovations of North Stonington Elementary School would include 11,700 square feet in additions and would cost $18.14 million, with the town paying $11.25 million for its share.
In a presentation to board members several weeks ago, Malik said the renovations will address multiple health code and security issues associated with the 50-plus-year-old facilities.
Nero compared the state of the aging buildings to the use of outdated surgical practices, noting that student safety is the project's utmost priority.
"Go to a doctor that has in his office 1954 medical equipment," he said.
Several board members emphasized the importance of getting the word out about the project to taxpayers who will vote for or against it in just six weeks.
"We've been nursing these schools for 20 years," said Chairman David McCord. "It's time to renovate them fully and to get them up to the 21st century."