What About the Effort BEFORE A School Project Starts?

Chatfield Elementary School -Gymnasium4Want to know more about our public school design experience? See our website or read a glossy brochure of our recent work. Want to see some cool renderings of schools we are currently designing? We have plenty of great images.

Yes, we can show off our extensive experience with public school design, but rarely do we talk about the challenges in increasing awareness to the community about these public school projects.

The community involvement and effort associated with gaining these approvals almost always needs to be supplemented by design and construction consultants to provide initial design solutions and project costs for consideration by the community’s official voting body.  Whether by public referendum vote, or the vote of a town/city council body, all 169 municipalities in the State of Connecticut must authorize approval to expend funds on public school projects – typically borrowed and financed through bonding agencies.  Maybe most importantly, though, school construction grants will not be approved (or considered) by the State’s Department of Construction Services Bureau of School Facilities without community approval.

We have led many successful school project referendum and town approval campaigns in Connecticut, but our most recent successes in Seymour, Stratford, West Haven, and, in June 2013, Regional School District 14 (Bethlehem and Woodbury) are mentioned below.

In Seymour, CT, the Chatfield Elementary School Building Committee (CESBC) retained Antinozzi Associates to provide conceptual design studies and costs associated with the needs of Chatfield School and its neighborhood.  Upon the results of a demographic study showing student enrollment decline over the decade, the CESBC requested an option to study the possibility of combining Chatfield with another elementary school, Lopresti School, into one facility.  The CESBC recommended this combined $32.5M school option for voters to decide in a referendum held in October 2008.  Due largely to our leadership in public relations and pre-referendum planning, the referendum passed in a close vote despite hard economic times.

In 2009, the Town of Stratford selected our firm to provide a comprehensive  school study to analyze the physical condition of two existing buildings and their site components, as well as create options to address future program deficiencies.  Collaboration on numerous levels with diverse groups in the community resulted in three distinct schemes.  The effort was expedited in a short timeframe to submit the ED-049 Grant Application to the CT-DOE by June 30 so the reimbursement rate could be secured.  The Town Council approved a new school facility on the existing site.

Our firm conducted a facility audit of West Haven High School in the same year, through the direction and overview of the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC).  Due to the short timeframe to meet the June 30 ED-049 deadline to submit for State reimbursement, the entire feasibility team worked to achieve report results in only 10 weeks.  Our design team developed and proposed three distinct options for evaluation, analysis, and cost consideration.  The Board of Education and West Haven City Council unanimously approved the option to renovate the Gym and Auditorium spaces and demolish the remaining portions of the facility to allow for a new central core of classrooms and support spaces.  In 2012, based largely on these efforts during the approval phase, Antinozzi Associates was selected to design the full project.

Most recently (June 2013), Regional School District 14 (Bethlehem and Woodbury, CT) sent a major high renovation to voters. Back in 2007, Antinozzi Associates was retained to provide design services to re-evaluate and prepare revised conceptual designs for three schools due to a failed 2006 referendum.  We worked closely, and extensively, with the BOE, Building Committee, and Construction Manager over a 12-month period to analyze various design options.  After deciding on a final project option to move to referendum in 2008, the referendum was canceled due to several district issues.   Four years later, efforts to move a school building project to voters restarted and in April 2013, the Building Committee and BOE approved sending a $64M Nonnewaug High School Renovation Project to voters.  After intensive pre-referendum services, led by our firm, the referendum passed.  The ED049 grant submission was made to the State by the June 30 deadline.

All of these referendum and town approval successes have been led by Michael Ayles, Principal of Business Development.  It should be noted that Mr. Ayles recently volunteered his time in his own hometown of Guilford, to help lead the effort in successfully passing (by 70%) a town-wide referendum for a new high school facility in 2011.

So, the next time you wonder how a public school project comes to fruition; make sure you have a comfortable chair. We have a lot more to tell you!

By Michael Ayles
Principal, Business Development

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