Taxpayers approve school projects

Capital expenditures for projects at Redding Elementary School and John Read Middle school totaling $534,000 and a $34,385 outdoor lighting project at the elementary school were approved by taxpayers at the Special Town Meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 13.

The projects will be funded by short-term borrowing pending long-term financing, for an amount not to exceed each individual project cost.

The $34,385 outdoor lighting project at Redding Elementary School will be funded from the town’s unassigned fund balance.

The project is to install 23 exterior lights with energy-efficient halogen bulbs. The project qualifies for a Connecticut Light & Power rebate program that will provide the town’s general fund with an anticipated rebate of about $51,711.

Bill Alvarez, Board of Finance chair, said, “It’s a no-brainer vote.”

Other improvements at Redding Elementary School include $45,000 in playground improvements and $165,000 to finish the bathroom upgrades.

The playground project will allow greater access to all students, said Mike D’Agostino, Board of Education member. It will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and meet National Association for the Education of Young Children accreditation requirements for the preschool program.

The playground will be for children with special needs and younger children, ages 3 and 4.

The two-phase $165,000 bathroom upgrade is to complete the upgrade project that began in the 1948 section of the school. During the second phase, bathroom upgrades will be done to the 1957 addition of the school.

Claire Dean, a resident, said she went through the Redding schools and thought the bathrooms were bad then.

“I think everything should be done,” she said.

Gwen Denny, a resident, said these projects have been going on for a couple of years and that the schools are the “most valuable buildings in town” and improvements should be made.

At John Read Middle School, improvements include a $45,000 roof repair project, bathroom upgrades to complete the project at $135,000 and a four-year locker project starting with a first-year cost of $84,000.

Phase one replaces the older lockers and phase two would replace the lockers on the second floor.

Mr. D’Agostino said many of the lockers are bent, dented and don’t shut properly, which can be a hazard for students.

The locker project will take four years to complete; however, phase one of the project will be completed over the summer and the board will ask the town for money again next year to complete phase two, said Ms. Sullivan.

As a result of last year’s retirement of Richard Engle, the woodshop teacher, and the implementation of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) curriculum this current year, a $60,000 renovation project was approved to turn the former woodshop into a combined technology room.

The renovation would consist of removing an existing wall separating the woodshop and a computer lab to create a larger workspace for the STEM classes, said Mr. D’Agostino.

Part of the curriculum is to create designs on the computer and then actually create the product.

Taxpayers approved the projects unanimously by a voice vote.

Peggy Sullivan, director of finance and operations for Easton, Redding, and Region 9 school districts, said all the projects will be completed this summer.

“We can start with the lighting as soon as we can and the bathrooms we might try to get done in April. The rest of the work will be done in the summer,” she said.

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