By Michael P. Walsh
Special to the Voice
Washington Elementary School has been named on the priority list for a new school and is expected to receive $24 million in state funding for the project, state Rep. Dorinda Borer and Mayor Nancy R. Rossi announced during a news conference Monday.
The morning announcement, held in the school cafeteria, was attended by a contingent of city and school leaders, including City Council Chairman Ronald M. Quagliani, Superintendent of Schools Neil C. Cavallaro and Board of Education Chairperson Cebi Burns Waterfield, as well as state Rep. Charles J. Ferraro, R-West Haven.
As Borer, Rossi and others took turns speaking, students held large paper signs with messages of thanks printed in colored markers, including “We Appreciate Your Kindness” and “Thank You for Our New School.” Some of the signs were penned in Chinese, Spanish and Turkish to reflect the diverse languages spoken by students at Washington, Principal Twana Shirden said.
“I know how passionate we all are in providing a quality education for the students of our city and state,” said Borer, D-West Haven, the chairwoman of the state’s General Bonding Subcommittee of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee. “The students and staff deserve to walk into a facility they are proud of, is healthy and safe, and has state-of-the-art resources that are conducive to the top-notch education they are entitled to.”
Rossi said: “After visiting and evaluating our school buildings with Superintendent Cavallaro, it was apparent that Washington School, which is more than 100 years old, had to be my administration’s top school construction priority. “I want to thank Representative Borer for securing this state construction grant to modernize Washington School and provide our children with a 21st-century learning environment.”
Special education teacher Maria Stevens, who was assigned to Washington in 1973, also spoke, along with PTA Council President Kimberly Kenny.
The existing elementary school — West Haven’s oldest — was built in 1909 at 369 Washington Ave. At the time, it was a modern structure featuring coal-fired hot water boilers, said Kenneth Carney, the chairman of the West Haven Building Oversight Committee.
“The renovation of this school is a priority for the state delegation and the city,” Borer said. “With no elevator, stairs roped off and restrooms in the basement, the accessibility for children in need is limited.”
Plans for a new Washington Elementary School call for making the building compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and constructing it farther from the road to improve vehicle access and traffic flow.
A preliminary rendering of the new K-4 school was on display at the news conference.
Carney said the $24 million in state bonding will supplement the project’s estimated $38 million cost through a school construction reimbursement program.
Plans include building a two-story, 52,000-square-foot school in the existing parking lot. The existing school will accommodate students until a new one is built, Borer said.
The new school, with a projected enrollment of 440 students, will include air conditioning, energy-saving fixtures, state-of-the-art safety devices and wireless internet,” Carney said.
The project is overwhelmingly supported by the City Council and the school board.
“If we want our kids to compete, they need the best, they deserve the best,” Cavallaro said.
According to Carney, Cavallaro and his team filed for the state grant and obtained the funding for the project, which should begin in about a year and take three years to complete.
Borer secured the bonding for the grant money and negotiated better language in the state bill that is favorable to the project, he said.
“All of these actions occurred under the leadership of the Rossi administration,” said Carney, who is also overseeing the reconstruction of West Haven High School. “Mayor Rossi has supported this project from the moment it was imagined.”