The committee fails to choose a design option for the new Norwalk High


NORWALK — The debate over the two potential construction options for the new Norwalk High School will continue for at least a few more weeks.

The school board’s finance committee, which was supposed to approve one of the options on Monday evening, forwarded the two drafts to the entire school board for review on March 15.

“Ultimately the city and BOE made the decision to construct the new building on this property and that comes with a lot of challenges,” Norwalk building and facilities manager Alan Lo said at the meeting. of Monday.

The city, architect, and construction manager recommend that the school board select Option B, which would build the new high school on the existing football field.

According to Lo, Option B has the “greatest benefits” related to scheduling, land use, impact on neighbors, and construction. It would also provide “least disruption to academics and day-to-day school operations” and be most in line with the educational goals of the new facility, he said.

Option B would cost approximately $193 million for a 330,000 square foot building to be completed in two phases spanning approximately 50 months. The plan would eliminate the school’s use of its soccer field, track and tennis courts for at least four years.

The public expressed concern about the loss of sports facilities during construction. In Option A, the softball field and practice soccer field would be temporarily relocated.

Several meetings were held with athletic directors from Norwalk and Brien McMahon High Schools as well as representatives from the Recreation and Parks Department to develop a plan for alternative athletic facilities. As well as finding alternative locations to host NHS sports programmes, the group is also discussing how to create a ‘home pitch’ environment for teams.

Alternative sites discussed include West Rocks and Nathan Hale colleges. According to Lo, West Rocks presents the best opportunity due to its proximity to the high school and its facilities. The biggest challenge the group still faces is finding an alternative to track and field sports.

The other major concern with Option B is the proposed King Street entrance. The design team has developed and is evaluating seven “vehicle traffic options on site” to minimize the impact on adjacent streets. The team also plans to conduct a traffic study if option B is chosen.

Option A presents a phased approach to construction, building most of the new facility on the existing high school footprint. The project would cost around $191 million for a 347,000 square foot building. The approximate duration of construction would be 55 months, between May 2023 and December 2027.

Both options provide a three-story wing for P-TECH Norwalk and a four-story wing for Norwalk High School. For more than a year, the city, Kaestle architects Boos Associates and construction manager Gilbane developed and evaluated more than a dozen design options before selecting the two under consideration which “were the more achievable,” according to Lo.

Kate Jessup, education planner for Kaestle Boos Associates, warned of the “quite significant impacts” on the educational experience under Option A during a presentation to the BOE facilities committee and the Common Council Land Use and Building Management Committee in January.

“In phase two, the P-TECH classrooms are being demolished, so the entire P-TECH school must be in temporary classrooms. This affects 500 students,” Jessup said during the joint meeting.

In her recommendation to the facilities committee, Lo also answered questions from the public regarding an alternative site for the new school. He said Norwalk does not own any property of at least 30 acres to accommodate the project, and the city does not have the budget to acquire such new property.

The future of an indoor pool remains in limbo due to lack of funding. The city’s original grant application to the state asking for $225 million was reduced to $189 million, which did not allow for the construction of the pool. Lo said the city continues to seek funds to fund construction of the pool. Design options include swimming pool.

In October 2020, the the state approved an 80% refund for the Norwalk High School project. The Common Council included construction of the school in its five-year capital budget earlier in 2020 at an estimated cost of $50 million.

Community feedback on both options was first gathered during the joint BOE-Joint Council Committees meeting on January 25. The design team held two additional community feedback meetings in February. He also met with Norwalk High School’s orchestra instructors and received feedback from the school’s Governing Council.

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