CHESTER/DEEP RIVER/ESSEX — The Board of Education will ask the towns in September to approve an additional $623,000 to build a secure vestibule at John Winthrop Middle School.
The towns originally approved $952,000 for the project in a referendum in November 2021. The project as presented included the construction of a staircase and outside ramp, which would lead to a secure vestibule next to where the front office is currently located.
At a meeting Thursday afternoon, Superintendent Brian White explained that since the referendum in 2021, the building codes had changed and now require that either the district install a canopy over the proposed ramps — to protect the ramps from snow — or that they install an elevator.
The John Winthrop Security Project Building Committee decided at a meeting in May to recommend to the Board of Education that they move forward with the installation of an elevator after learning from Rusty Malik, principal at the architecture firm QA + M, that the canopy would cost the district approximately $279,000 more.
“It is the code change that happened from the time we started the project to now that is the fundamental portion that is changing the cost,” said Board member John Stack, who is also a member of the building committee. “We fully vetted all different types of options. It wasn’t that we woke up and decided we wanted an elevator — that is not the case.”
The district expects state reimbursement for at least 42 percent of the project, White said. Although the total amount the towns approved for the project would increase to $1.575 million with this additional referendum, Malik said at the building committee meeting that he expected the state to pay for about $659,000, leaving the district responsible for about $916,000.
In addition to the building code changes, White said, the rise in construction costs and supply chain problems caused by the pandemic also contributed to the increased cost of the project.
The board will hold a public hearing on September 6 to discuss appropriating the additional funds, with an anticipated referendum on November 7.