WOODBURY – Nonnewaug High School students will return to their brand new building on Tuesday, transformed over the past three years from an outdated structure into a state-of-the-art teaching and learning facility.
But any anticipated ribbon-cutting ceremonies have been quieted by COVID-19.
“It’s a whole new world now that we live in,” Superintendent Joseph Olzacki said. “Gone are the days when we could get together in close proximity…but this school is ready.”
Gone are the scaffolding and the temporary walls, the closed sections of the building and light fixtures hanging down from the ceiling.
Students and teachers will return wearing facemasks and attend classes at half capacity, while also keeping six feet apart.
Board of Education Chairman George Bauer called the overall $63 million project a major success, coming in on-budget despite some delays and job-site challenges caused by the pandemic.
Bauer said that while the school’s high-tech equipment was not originally set up for remote learning, having that level of technology will give students a leg up.
Most of the day-to-day portions of the high school had already been completed when schools were forced to close back in March. Since then, school officials say, the most notable completed project is the new Region 14 Central Office, which will eventually be housed at the high school. Plans had been set to move the administration over this summer from its current home, a portable alongside Woodbury Middle School. But Olzacki said the move would be delayed to allow the new space to be used for instructional purposes to assist with social distancing needs.
Students will also return to find the main office relocated closer to the main entrance.
Outside, the continued upgrade of Nonnewaug’s athletic facilities also took a big step forward this summer with the installation of bleachers and lights on the all-purpose, turf field. The school’s six new tennis courts are also completed and ready for play.
And as the school’s athletic facilities have gone from being an after-thought to what Olzacki said is now on-par with that of a small college, it appears as if they might actually get used this fall.
Two weeks ago, the Region 14 Board of Education voted to cancel the fall sports season. But in a turnabout Monday night, the board voted in favor of having sports after the state’s Department of Health gave the green light for high school sports in Connecticut (see related story).
The three-year project covered the entire footprint of the 145,000 structure, including the auditorium, cafeteria, science labs, gymnasium, front entrance and more.
The original school, with its accompanying Ellis Clark Regional Agriscience and Technology building, was built “piecemeal,” according to Nelson Reis of O & G, who said the school lacked many of the more modern HVAC, electrical and sprinkler system amenities.
“Now you have a very tight building, which is very energy efficient,” Reis said.
The renovation to Nonnewaug High School, at 5 Minortown Road, began in the fall of 2017. It had been divided up into several phases, all designed to minimize the impact on learning.