NEW FAIRFIELD – On Tuesday, November 10, the Permanent Building Committee invited the New Fairfield Board of Education members to their regular meeting. Representatives from JCJ Architecture presented the Consolidated Early Learning Academy (CELA) project to both groups. The presentation included elements that are new to the project and visuals of in-progress design thoughts that hadn’t yet been shown. BOE members absorbed the presentation and had questions regarding indoor and outdoor traffic flow and security measures.
Designer Ms. Lauren Braren of JCJ Architecture, walked the boards through a series of renderings, saying “We’re excited to show you the progress we’ve made on the CELA school at the Meeting House site.” She reminded everyone that their guiding principles continue to be to blend the two schools smoothly into one campus; to create a connection to play and the outdoors; and to create breakout opportunities wherever possible. In addition to giving an overhead walkthrough of the addition, dropoff. The details include turning the gym entrance into the primary entrance, turning the current bus dropoff entrance into a maker space. To create a better flow, a glass corridor will be created outside of the gym to access the new addition area.
She went on to explain the tiered playground plans, plus the new play areas, such as a large lawn that is surrounded by a “walk-and-talk path.” She noted that “replacing the play area is a really important piece of this project,” as the new addition sits where the current playground area exists. The group is planning for a wide variety of ages, from pre-k through 5th grade.
Braren explained the marriage of the existing building to the addition, highlighting changes that will be made to the Meeting House front entrance for security reasons, such as a transaction window to check credentials, which will also be in place at the new CELA administration office. There will be light renovation to Meeting House in a couple of classrooms to create more resource areas, beyond the aforementioned maker space.
In detailing the addition, Braren was excited to highlight a new design feature that has been added to the kindergarten wing–a space being dubbed “the treehouse.” Braren explained that while the column at the end of the wing is functional, it will also provide a whimsical decorative element, “It’s going to have an amazing view looking down over the trees, heading down that hill.” There will be benches in the treehouse for students to perch and take in the view, for adults to hold small group sessions, and more. Visuals of the interior spaces were charming, with pops of color in the form of high wall clerestory windows along the corridors that also provide natural light. Though colors are not yet determined, there are imagined scenarios with colorful furniture in the hallways and classrooms, a grand-feeling lobby, and fun elements such as dry erase paint incorporated throughout the hallways and classrooms. Spaces have been carved out of hallways and in nooks for “breakout” areas. The areas will be easy to identify with a different resilient tile flooring then the rest of the new addition.
Braren explained that an open courtyard between classrooms and the gymnasium will now be an enclosed courtyard, allowing for opportunities for shortcuts to get from the new addition to common spaces, such as the cafeteria. BOE member Mr. Dominic Cipollone expressed some concern that the walk was quite far for the little ones. “I know we can’t change that design, but it is a bit of a hike for them to make it over there,” he said. Braren acknowledged his comment, but pointed out that “unfortunately the site really dictates the location of a lot of the classrooms.” She said that the location of the leaching fields also limited their options.
Looking at the outdoor surfaces, Braren explained that the entrances will be identifiable by the materials and height. She said that in order to conserve costs they will incorporate buff bricks at the entrance, rather than mimicking the stone on the front of MHHS. They will match the rest of the brick to MHHS and replicate the existing window pattern. Windows became a topic of discussion for BOE members and JCJ Architecture representatives, with concern being expressed regarding the safety level of the glass. Ms. Christine O’Hare of JCJ Architecture explained that the glass is being heavily discussed with the town’s School Security and Safety Committee. She said that there are alternates–which will be incorporated if there are funds–in the budget for a high safety glass. The security glass that would be put in, which began to be developed for schools after the Sandy Hook tragedy, is not ballistic, but would take, for example, 10 to 12 minutes to get through, rather than the 3 minutes it takes to break through laminated glass. In addition, she noted that there is money in the budget to provide for security glazing inside the building as well. PBC Chair Mr. George Martinetti pointed out that while watching costs, “We need to track the alternates a little better.”
After the presentation, the PBC discussed progress on the new high school project. PBC member Mr. Mike Del Monaco expressed dismay that the mechanical HVAC drawings are not complete, though the estimation process is almost complete. Given that he had experienced the same frustration with the CELA project weeks ago–incomplete documents this far into the estimation process, which presumably are forcing the estimators to speculate too much–he was not pleased. He noted that several items are missing in drawings, including riser diagrams and incomplete schedules. “I have a problem with the [fact] we’re not meeting the contract requirements for DD [Design Development] documents,” he said, “It happened with CELA, too and it is happening again.” When Pellman reminded Del Monaco that there was not time to have him review the documents before the estimators began, as he had requested, Del Monaco countered to say, “You’re meeting a date, but if it’s incomplete you’re not meeting the date.” The design teams are planning to pull together the correct documentation for Del Monaco.
Mr. Scott Pellman of Collier’s International explained the need for investigative work on the existing plumbing situation under the locker rooms and pool in order to renovate the space in the existing high school/middle school. He anticipates that the company, who will employ underground surveying cameras to scope and trace out the condition of the pipes will need a full day and charge $250 per hour–he asked for a not-to-exceed $2000 budget for the work.
The design teams went on to reference the overall schedule and have hopes to even further bring the high school project back on track. Plus, it was noted that there are myriad deadlines and paperwork submissions being juggled for the Inland/Wetlands Committee and Zoning. In addition, meetings with the town fire department are continuing regularly.
The next regular Permanent Building Committee is scheduled for Tuesday, November 24, 7:30pm.
By Sarah Opdahl