City and school leaders in New Britain toured renovation work being done at Smalley Elementary School Wednesday.
The hope is to further energize students and staff about going to school.
“Smalley has been growing rapidly and we haven’t been able to keep up with growth with the size of the building we had had,” explained New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart.
Part of that growth is eight new classrooms, including a new wing for kindergarteners who, for lack of space, were in an off-site building. The original building dates back to the early 1970s.
“It was a hardship on families and we want to create that unity or that community feel,” said Superintendent Nancy Sarra.
Sarra says the community grew significantly after Hurricane Maria. The district took in an additional 300 students, the majority in the Smalley area.
“We will never turn children away. We’re families. That’s what New Britain is based on,” Sarra said.
The district says renovating the building as new is coming in under budget at $43 million. The city originally allocated more than $50 million.
Those officials say the state will reimburse almost 80 percent of the project, and Mayor Stewart says there was no tax increase.
“We still have to front the money. So it’s a burden on the city, there’s no doubt about it, but we can manage,” Stewart said.
The chief facilities officer for the school district says they have to shell $60,000 a year from their operating budget to rent a temporary school for two years.
But he says it’s worth it. The Gaffney School was completed about two years ago. The district says so far nine schools have been renovated, and there are five more on the list.
“I wish we had all money in the world do them all at once. But, prioritize progress,” Stewart said.
The building will also have a comprehensive medical suite, including mental health services, and an adult education center.
For safety there are almost 90 cameras on property. Windows are bullet proof and have opaque glass so people can’t see inside.
The superintendent says the hope is to get teachers in the building to see what the construction looks like. Then the plan is to move in teachers and students before the end of July so they are ready for the coming school year.