Con­struc­tion on agri­science academy set to start Fri­day

The News-Times - - NEWS - By Ka­t­rina Ko­ert­ing kko­ert­ing@new­; 203-731-3345

WASH­ING­TON — The long-awaited agri­science academy will soon be a re­al­ity, with con­struc­tion start­ing Fri­day.

The pro­gram, which opens next fall, will teach area stu­dents about agri­cul­ture with a STEM fo­cus, which in­cludes sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and math. It is ex­pected to in­clude 35,750 square feet of new con­struc­tion at Shep­aug Val­ley School while also us­ing un­used space within the school.

“So many peo­ple have car­ried this pro­ject to the place it is,” Re­gion 12 Su­per­in­ten­dent Me­gan Ben­nett said. “I’m so grate­ful for the fore­sight peo­ple had for bring­ing this op­por­tu­nity in for our stu­dents. We re­ally are try­ing to de­sign for the 21st cen­tury and be­yond.”

Ben­nett sees the ground­break­ing Fri­day morn­ing as a cel­e­bra­tion of this work.

“This has been three years in the mak­ing,” Ben­nett said. “Prov­ing to every­one in­volved the need for the pro­gram, how in­no­va­tive this pro­ject is and the ben­e­fits for the stu­dents has been noth­ing short of amaz­ing.”

The pro­ject has been con­tro­ver­sial at points, with some res­i­dents ques­tion­ing if the costs were too high for the towns to ab­sorb. Pro­po­nents tout the pro­gram though as a way to bol­ster de­clin­ing en­roll­ment.

Stag­ing for the con­struc­tion be­gan this week and bids were awarded last week to a va­ri­ety of com­pa­nies to han­dle dif­fer­ent as­pects of the pro­ject. O & G In­dus­tries is still serv­ing as con­struc­tion man­ager through­out the work, just as they did dur­ing the de­mo­li­tion phase, which was done over the sum­mer.

The pro­ject is ex­pected to cost $29.9 mil­lion, with the state pay­ing nearly $24 mil­lion. The state also awarded an ad­di­tional $1.5 mil­lion to the district in the spring to pur­chase fur­ni­ture and fixtures for the pro­ject.

The school is also ren­o­vat­ing the sci­ence labs, bring­ing the to­tal cost to about $34.4 mil­lion.

Some of the pro­ject de­tails in­clude adding a green­house, an agri­cul­tural me­chan­ics fa­cil­ity and an­i­mal fa­cil­i­ties.

Ben­nett said the work is split be­tween the north and south ends of the build­ing, “leav­ing the belly of the build­ing in­tact and busi­ness con­tin­u­ing as usual.” Work will start by the main en­trance and pool.

She said the first phase of con­struc­tion is slated to end next Septem­ber and the se­cond phase will wrap up Jan­uary 2020.

“We fully rec­og­nize the build­ing will not be 100 per­cent com­pleted when we open the doors in 2014 but the pro­gram will be up and run­ning,” Ben­nett said.

School of­fi­cials have al­ready or­ga­nized the school around the af­fected class­rooms and cre­ated a traf­fic and park­ing plan to avoid the con­struc­tion. Up­dates are posted on the Shep­aug web­site and ex­tra staff are help­ing out with the traf­fic.

The con­struc­tion may af­fect pool ac­cess so peo­ple are ad­vised to look for up­dates on the work. the cam­pus will also be closed next sum­mer so the work­ers can push the pro­ject for­ward as fast as pos­si­ble.

The pro­gram will serve 139 stu­dents from Re­gion 12, Dan­bury, Brook­field, New Fair­field, New Mil­ford, New­town and Sher­man. Bethel has not com­mit­ted to join­ing the pro­gram.

Carol Kaliff / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Above and below, ren­der­ings of the new agri­science build­ing soon to be un­der con­struc­tion at at Shep­aug Val­ley School.

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