Old Lyme – A number of outdoor projects included in the School District’s Five-Year Plan for Region 18 are now accelerated thanks to an infusion of federal COVID-19 aid funds.
Ron Turner, director of facilities and technology for Lyme-Old Lyme, told members of the area’s education committee last week that the construction of three outdoor classrooms and upgrading of the district’s three elementary school playgrounds had “accelerated” after the district was received Money to help schools thrive amid the pandemic.
School principal Ian Neviaser said the district received $ 41,197 in the first round of COVID aid to schools and $ 298,922 in the second round. A third round is expected to deliver around $ 798,000 to the district.
The federal funding guidelines state that the money can be spent over several years.
From the end of this school year, Mile Creek School, Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School, and Lyme Consolidated School will begin building outdoor classrooms in the form of open-air pavilions, Neviaser said.
The pandemic gave a sense of urgency to a fresh air philosophy that the superintendent said was already in place in schools.
“Even before COVID, we tried to take children outside, bring them fresh air and sunshine,” he said. “Another place, an opportunity to get close to nature. I think all of these factors allow children to enjoy school a little more, to be a little more relaxed, and it’s a little adventure for a young child, to go there a new environment for their class and study outside. “
He said the Mile Creek project, which will not exceed $ 30,000, is being built by students from Vinal Technical High School.
The Vinal partnership is part of the state’s Student Workforce program through the Connecticut Technical Education and Career System.
Brent McCartney, associate education consultant for the state program, said the main benefit for the Vinal students is the “real world experience” they get on the job. Classes with an average of 18 students spend their mornings studying the theory behind work and then head off to about four hours of on-site work.
“With their instructor, they evaluate the job to see if it fits well and fix mistakes on what to do,” he said. “Then they do all the work for the entire job.”
The benefit to Lyme-Old Lyme schools, according to McCartney, is the cost.
“We’re cheaper. Significantly,” he said. “We’re about a fifth the cost of a general contractor.”
The district is responsible for labor costs, he said. It also has to provide all the materials.
Student workforce crews across the state have built everything from pavilions to sheds to house accessories, he said. Students at Oliver Wolcott Technical High School in Torrington built a 3,500-square-foot ranch, while classes at EC Goodwin Technical High School built a Cape Cod-style house.
According to McCartney, there are 18 participating schools covering 64 professions.
Neviaser said the Vinal students would start work at the end of this school year, take a break for the summer, and move on to the new school year.
According to the superintendent, the planned outdoor classroom in the middle school will be installed by a contractor due to the specialization of the work in the courtyard.
The school board last week authorized the district to commission JM Carpentry to build the middle school pavilion for $ 49,729.
Construction of an outdoor classroom at Lyme Consolidated School is tentatively slated for fall, Neviaser said.
Turner announced to Board of Education members that the playground renovation, which involves replacing certain obsolete equipment, will take place at Mill Creek School, Lyme Consolidated School, and Center School.
School board last week kicked off the $ 304,119 improvement this summer for Massachusetts-based outdoor recreational company O’Brien & Sons. The cost includes removing the obsolete items, building the new equipment, and installing the mulch.
Neviaser stressed that the district will not replace the “relatively newer” equipment on the existing playgrounds. But some older pieces that have been around for 15 to 20 years “just aren’t what we want students out there to be,” he said.
No specific dates have been set for construction, but Neviaser said the district hopes to complete the work this summer. The playgrounds will be temporarily closed during the construction phase.
Turner announced to school directors that federal spending on outdoor projects will allow the district to budget for other elements of its five-year plan earlier than expected.
Neviaser said a high priority would be repairing the concrete steps along the front of the Lyme Consolidated School.