On the sunny and warm morning of Saturday, September 10, Town and State officials, school administrators, town committee members, teachers, school staff, and residents of all ages came out for the ribbon-cutting ceremony officially marking the opening of the Consolidated Early Learning Academy (“CELA”) on the Meeting House Hill campus.
First Selectman Patricia Del Monaco delivered the opening remarks. “Today we celebrate our beautiful new school, our students, teachers, staff and Administrators, our Town’s commitment to Education, and all the people who have helped us reach this goal,” she said. And beautiful it is! From the moment you walk through the new doors, you cannot help but smile. The administrators, teachers and staff who were present to provide tours were beaming with pride as they walked residents and officials through the new hallways and classrooms, showing off the magnificent new learning academy.
Recognizing that it takes a “small army of people” to bring such a large capital project to fruition and make it succeed, Ms. Del Monaco thanked many, including the taxpayers of New Fairfield. “Our taxpayers went to the polls in October 2019 and supported this ambitious project. I thank you for recognizing the need, acknowledging the cost, and voting Yes.”
Ms. Del Monaco also thanked the School Administration and Board of Education (“BOE”) “for identifying the need for new schools and envisioning 21st century schools that will meet the needs of all students and carry them forward into the future. State Senator Julie Kushner and State Representatives Ken Gucker and Pat Callahan, the Treasurer and Deputy Treasurer, Town Officials, Boards and Commissions, Colliers International, O & G Industries, JCJ Architecture and, “the dedicated members of our Permanent Building Committee.”
In modest fashion, Permanent Building Committee (“PBC”) Chair Don Kellogg said it was “by far the rest of the PBC that are the real force behind the committee.” Mr. Kellogg acknowledged both past and present members of the PBC. He said, “It’s a real honor for the committee to provide our knowledge, our expertise to the town to provide a clean, safe, and resilient building for our children.” Mr. Kellogg went on to say, “This building allows our children the opportunity to excel academically using technology and spaces that enhance the learning environment.”
Mr. Kellogg thanked and acknowledged many, including Richard Sanzo and Dr. Patricia Cosentino, without whom he said the PBC would have floundered; and welcomed Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Craw and Carrie DuPuy, Director of Business and Operations, saying, “Welcome to town, we’ll get you on that high school project!” He gave a special thanks to all the laborers and subcontractors who worked tirelessly, every day on the project.
“I think this is representative of what this community thinks is important,” said BOE Chair Dominic Cipollone. “When you do something like this, you’re saying ‘we believe in the future of New Fairfield’.” Senator Richard Blumenthal thanked New Fairfield for the wonderful blueprint and for showing everyone (in Connecticut) the Town’s commitment to education.
“Being able to walk through the incredible new CELA building that meshes perfectly with the MHHS building is a true testament to what can be accomplished when many people work together to achieve such an important goal,” said Jeff Alviti, resident, and parent of two school-aged children, who was in attendance for the ceremony and tour with his son Max. “I am very proud to be part of a town that put their differences aside in order to put the kids and future of this town first.” The sentiments of Mr. Alviti echoed the message of Mr. Cipollone when he said at the end of his speech, “This is to tell the whole State of Connecticut that New Fairfield is going to be number one in education.”
If you missed the tour on September 10, perhaps arrangements can be made to tour the CELA at another time – it is worth it. To walk down the hall, breathing in the “new car smell” and seeing what our children will see and experience every school day. From the new floors to the lockers to Mr. Riehl’s new “motor skills” gymnasium, everyone who toured seemed to be in awe. “I love it,” said Mr. Riehl, the CELA’s physical education teacher. “You can literally feel how new it is.”
The new classrooms are large spaces where everything is movable. There are closets and storage, carpets, different areas for the children to learn and grow. The building has three “break-out” areas, outside of classrooms, where smaller groups can go to work and learn. Jeff Giuliano, a beloved fifth grader teacher at Meeting House Hill School for twenty-three years, is the new STEAM Innovation teacher for both schools. His Innovation room, located at the sight of the former east exit, is interactive and enticing. Mr. Giuliano speaks with excitement about the new program and looks forward to interacting with and teaching all students from both schools. Looking at the smiles on everyone’s faces – its intoxicating and contagious. The teachers and staff, the administration, all are beaming with pride and excitement – a sign of hope and good things for the future.
Each of Saturday’s speakers reminded those in attendance that the project prevailed through COVID, lock-down, pandemic restrictions, supply-chain issues, delays, and rising costs, and through it all the PBC, School Administrators, BOE, and the design and construction team designed and built the CELA, and opened on schedule and within budget. Many of us look forward to seeing the opening of the new high school.
By Michelle L. Santoro