LYME-OLD LYME — The local schools are planning a busy summer of upgrades to school buildings, with around a dozen projects slated for construction through the summer and early fall.
The projects include upgrades to sound systems, the construction of two outdoor classrooms, renovations to the playgrounds, a bonded study for future building upgrades and beginning construction on the new synthetic turf field, which is scheduled to be finished in September.
“These are a lot of great improvements for the district,” said Lyme-Old Lyme district Superintendent Ian Neviaser at a board of education meeting on Wednesday.
Lights on the turf field
The Board of Education on Wednesday approved the installation of five bases on the planned synthetic turf field that could be used for installing lights, at a cost of $134,979.
Ron Turner, director of facilities, said that Inland Wetlands had already approved the installation. Neviaser explained that while the school was zoned for lights, the project would still need planning approval and zoning approval to install lights in the future.
Board member Steve Wilson said he hadn’t realized that the turf field would be used not only for practice, but also for games. Neviaser replied that using the field for games would take the pressure off the grass fields, which are both competition and grass fields. He said that the majority of the use would be practice, but there was never any prohibition against using it for games.
Board member Jenn Miller said she thought it was “risky” to approve the bases without having the approval from Planning and Zoning for lights. However, Board member Richard Goulding said that if a future board decided to install lights later on, ripping up the field to do it would cost a lot more than installing the bases alongside the field.
Neviaser said that the current technology was so advanced that it would be possible to control the lights so that they didn’t bother any neighbors.
“You could walk 10 feet off the field and it would be pitch black,” he said.
Bonded study project, outdoor classrooms and playground repairs
Also this summer, the district will begin a bonded study project. At the Wednesday board meeting, the district approved a contract with the Farmington-based firm QA + M for $45,850 to evaluate the need for upgrades at Mile Creek, Lyme School, Center school and the middle school. Money for the study comes through federal funding.
Neviaser said he anticipated that upgrades to the HVAC systems in the schools would be the major source of future improvements; he said the systems hadn’t been updated in about 20 years. Neviaser said the schools might also need other improvements including updated lockers and bulletin boards and possibly new windows in Lyme School.
After the study is complete, the board will need to put any projects out to referendum, which Neviaser said they anticipated doing in the coming December or January. He said they would be looking for input from the public and the school staff.
In a previous meeting, the board approved the use of part of the combined $1.48 million the district is receiving in federal grant money for the construction of two outdoor classrooms at Mile Creek and the middle school, and for renovating three playgrounds. The outdoor classroom at the middle school, a post-and-beam gazebo built of pine timber, will cost $49,729 and the Mile Creek outdoor classroom, which will be built in partnership with the Vinal Technical School in Middletown, will cost $30,000. Replacing the oldest pieces of playground equipment will cost $304,120.
Solar panels, display boards, and replacing “crumbling” steps
The board voted on two additional projects at the Wednesday meeting, which will be paid for through the district’s surplus funds. One was the repair of the concrete steps at the Center School, which Neviaser said were “crumbling.”
The second will extend the warranty and make repairs to the Center School roof — Neviaser said this was necessary for the district to go forward with its plan to add solar panels to the roof of the school. Together, the two projects will cost approximately $125,500.
Other projects in district budget include upgrades to the soundfield system at the high school, at $32,544, and in the middle school gym and cafeteria, $20,390; renovating the gym floor at the middle school, for $17,779, the Lyme tennis courts, for $231,000, and installing air conditioning in the middle school cafeteria, for $11,487. An emergency repair to the wastewater treatment plant will cost $22,200 in contingency funds. Neviaser said these projects would be completed before the start of the school year.
The district is also in the process of upgrading its technology, which is included in its annual budget. On Wednesday the board approved $101,920 for 40 display boards and $67,595 for 100 desktop computers to power the display boards and replace existing computers. Turning said that the SmartBoard replacement will be half completed after this latest round of upgrades, and they plan to replace the remaining boards over the next two years.