The recent demolition of the former G-wing at West Haven High School has put the project back in the minds of city residents following almost two years of inaction and delays. The project, estimated to cost the city more than $133 million, was first announced by Superintendent of Schools Neil Cavallaro in 2009.
Plagued with delays and controversy, Mayor Nancy R. Rossi said this week the project is moving according to schedule, and has a new date of completion.
“The West Haven High School project is moving along nicely and is on target to be completed in the fall of 2021. The project is currently on schedule and under budget by $5 million,” she said.
One of the controversies surrounding the project and the many design changes that occurred over the past several years has to do with the number of classrooms. In last year’s mayoral campaign, the deletion of 15 classrooms from the design was a major issue. This week, nine of the 15 classrooms were reinstated in the most recent design, due to a higher-than-expected school population. The Board of Education was given the news in a recent meeting with representatives of Antinozzi Associates, the architectural firm in charge, and Gilbane Construction, the contractor.
The design called for a school population of 1,450 students. Most recent estimates now put the possible population at just over 1,580, and require not only extra classroom space, but an expanded cafeteria, according to Rossi.
“When I took office in December, I was notified that the new high school, as designed, would be too small on the day the new school opened to serve the projected student population. This was a direct result of the 14 classrooms cut from the project last year,” she said. “The good news is that we have reinstated nine classrooms and increased the size of the cafeteria so that the high school will be large enough to accommodate the projected student population and reduce the need for early lunch periods.”
According to the mayor the under-budget projections right now allow for the changes to be made within budgetary constraints.
“The cost of reinstating the needed classroom space and increasing the size of the cafeteria will be $3.5 million and come from the project’s projected $5 million surplus,” she said.
One of the major controversies that plagued the early going of the project was the elimination of hands-on shop courses that were popular with students. The controversy raged for almost two years before accommodation was made to students and parents.
“The plan includes all the required space for the shop programs,” Rossi assures parents.
While the bond issue was authorized by the City Council in 2017, no movement has been made to sell the bonds, which has some residents and observers perplexed. Bond Anticipation Notes (BANs) have been issued covering current costs. When asked about the bond, Rossi said bonding will occur, but at a later date.
“The City Council, last year, authorized up to $133,250.00 in bonding for the project. The State of Connecticut will reimburse 75.36 percent of the project. The City of West Haven has not bonded any money for the project yet,” she said. “The city’s portion of the financing ($32.8 million) will be financed through the issuance of Bond Anticipation Notes (BANS) over the course of the construction period and the project will be permanently financed (bonded) at the conclusion of the project.”
She said the building committee now empaneled is working to keep current deadlines and work within cost.
“I want to thank the West Haven High School Building Committee Chairman Ken Carney and the entire building committee for their hard work and focus on negotiating contracts and streamlining the construction process to reduce project costs and keep the high school project on schedule and under budget. I really look forward to a new state-of-the-art high school for our students and the community,” she said finally.