Frequently Asked Questions

  • How will my child be affected?

There are three phases to the School Modernization Project (SMP). The first two phases of the project involve considerable renovation and construction.

Phase 1 is the renovation of the Gymnatorium and the construction of a new Wheeler Middle/High School. The new middle/high school will be attached to the present Gymnatorium. The new Wheeler Middle/High School will be relocated to across the street, 297 Norwich-Westerly Rd. Phase 1 is taking place at present and will be completed next March.

Phase 2 is the “Renovate as New” of the North Stonington Elementary School. It will also include a small addition. Phase 2 will commence in March 2019 and will be completed one year later at the end of March 2020.

Phase 3 is a smaller project, a roof replacement of the building at 298 Norwich-Westerly Rd (the present middle/high school). That building will become the new location for Central Administration and the Board of Education. Phase 3 will take place this summer.

As the project phases continue and changes are necessary, the Superintendent of Schools will provide regular updates through the website, email blasts and PowerAnnouncement.

North Stonington Elementary School:

Instruction and day-to-day activities at the North Stonington Elementary School will not be affected during Phase 1 of the SMP. A small addition will begin to be erected on the back of the building beginning in May 2018. There will be slight alterations on back of the building but there will not be any loss of classrooms or instructional time.

Travel into the school for all vehicles and parking will have some restrictions. There have been accommodations made for adult parking for day and night events. Those accommodations have been posted on the website.

Wheeler Middle/High School:

Students at Wheeler Middle/High School have lost access and use of the Gymnatorium located at 297 Norwich-Westerly Rd during Phase 1 of the SMP. Presently, all music and indoor physical education (PE) classes are taking place at the middle/high school. As usual, fall and spring PE will take place outdoors, weather permitting. Instruction and all other routine activities such as food services and bus transportation are not affected at this time. There are some parking restrictions for students and staff. The Gymnatorium will reopen in March 2019, when the Gymnatorium renovations and the new middle/high school construction is completed. That will conclude Phase 1 of the SMP.

During Phase 1, schedules at all schools will remain the same.

Central Administration:

Central Administration/Board of Education has been relocated to the middle school located at 298 Norwich-Westerly Rd.

Explanation of expected changes throughout the building process.

In order to accommodate the SMP as it transitions from Phase 1 to Phase 2, the April vacation is being moved to March for the 2018-2019 school year.
Please be advised that there are two (2) separate school calendars, one for the elementary school and one for the middle/high school. The approved BOE 2018-2019 calendars can be found on the website. The school year will begin earlier next year than in the past, on August 22, 2018. Prior to planning a family vacation or event, you should review your child’s calendar. While all students will have a 2-week vacation between Phase 1 and Phase 2, the middle/high school students will be on vacation weeks one and two of March and the elementary school students will be on vacation weeks two and three of March.

With any major construction project, there may be times when the phasing may require slight changes. Those changes may include, but are not limited to, classrooms, lunch schedules, athletic events as well as to traffic and parking. Again, we will announce changes by posting them on the website and send email blasts and communicate through PowerAnnouncement.

 

  • Does this project affect athletics?

For the most part, the SMP will not affect outdoor athletic events, both fall and spring; however, it will have a significant impact on all indoor athletic events next school year. Those athletic events include volleyball (a fall sport) and all winter sports. Practice for volleyball will take place at the elementary school as well as other local school district facilities when available. All indoor athletic events for the 2018-2019 school year will take place at either our opponent’s facilities or at other neutral facilities where available.

 

  • When will the new school be complete?

Phase 1, the Gymnatorium middle/high school project, began March 19, 2018 and will end March 2, 2019.

Phase 2, the elementary school project, will begin on March 2, 2019 and end in March 2020.

Phase 3 will be completed during the summer, 2018.

 

  • Why did we need to build a new school?

There were a number of reasons for the need to modernize North Stonington Public Schools. Think of your own home or business and the wear and tear that takes place over a long period of time. The last time any capital improvements took place to any North Stonington Public Schools was approximately 25-years ago. Our buildings have become quite antiquated, especially the science labs which are at least 50 years old.

The accreditation of a school, especially a high school, is very important. Several years ago, the middle/high school was placed on “WARNING” status by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). NEASC is the educational agency that provides standards for almost all public and private schools in New England. NEASC accreditation is an important aspect of a schools’ fabric. When reviewing student applications and transcripts for enrollment, colleges and universities view attendance at an accredited high school of most importance.

NEASC evaluated Wheeler in 2004. It revealed significant deficiencies in our facilities that also impacted instruction. Wheeler was placed on warning by NEASC in 2008. Wheeler has been required to provide regular reports as to the town’s progress in modernizing our buildings. If satisfactory progress was not being made, the next step in the NEASC accreditation process would be for Wheeler to be placed “PROBATION” or possibly losing accreditation altogether. The fact that NEASC has allowed Wheeler to be on warning for so long and not go on probation is a reflection on how well the school performs in all other NEASC standards. In addition, Wheeler does not meet the regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), meeting the needs of students with handicapping conditions. There were also issues with Title IX, which protects students from discrimination in which there must be equal access (male-female) in educational programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance.

Finally, except for the Gymnatorium, all of our other schools were built at a time when environmental concerns were not nearly as important as they are today. In addition, a lot of the materials used in construction 50-60 years ago were found out to possibly be hazardous to humans and the environment. Those hazardous materials can be found in, but not limited to, paint, caulking, flooring and adhesives/mastics (glue). Decades ago, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) an organic chlorine compound, was used in many building materials, especially in paint and caulking found around windows and the expansion joints of concrete walls. PCB is a hazardous material and since the late 70s, they have been banned.

PCBs have been found extensively in our elementary and middle schools. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), and the Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA), have been monitoring our environmental problems and have required the district to conduct testing of our schools on a quarterly basis. We also are required to provide interim remediation and maintenance until the SMP is completed. The district is also required to follow an approved maintenance plan. Once the SMP is completed, our schools will be free of all hazardous materials and we will no longer be required to perform quarterly testing.

While there are environmental problems at the middle school related to PCBs, they are significant at the elementary school. Three elementary classrooms were closed at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year and cannot be reopened until that project is completed.

All the aforementioned reasons for the need for the SMP will be alleviated when completed.

 

  • How was this project paid for and how much does this project cost?

Total Project Cost of Completion of All Phases of the Project: $38,550,000Estimated State Reimbursement With Approved Space Standard Waivers $16,530,000

Cost to the Town $22,020,000

The Project Cost Without Waivers Estimated the Town’s Share at Approximately $23,600,000

 

  • Who do I contact with questions about the School project?

The Town of North Stonington School Modernization Project is overseen by the School Modernization Building Committee. The building committee meets monthly. Meeting dates and times are posted on the town’s website. They are “open” meetings and the public is invited to attend. If you have any questions regarding the progress or any other concerns of the SMG they may be directed to Mr. Peter L. Nero, Superintendent of Schools. Email nerop@northstonington.k12.ct.us.

 

  • How can my family be a part of the project?

While construction is taking place, for safety sake, only authorized personnel are allowed on the site. Next March, we are hoping that we will be assisted by the residents and families of the Town of North Stonington as we prepare to move both schools between Phase 1 and Phase 2.

 

  • What will the grade configuration look like at the North Stonington Elementary School and the Wheeler Middle/High School?

As you are aware, in addition to the new construction and the modernization of our schools, the grade configuration will change. The North Stonington Elementary School will serve students in grades Pre K through 6. The Wheeler Middle/High School will serve students in grades 7 through 12. That moves the 6th grade back to the elementary school where it once was.

 

  • When will the 6th grade students leave the middle/high school and be a part of the elementary school?

Due to the fact that Phase 1 didn’t begin until March, next year, 6th graders will continue to be students at the middle school and remain there for the entire 2018-2019 school year.

More information will be forthcoming and posted on the website.