Officials: Best for Saxe Students, Timing and Costs to Start Building Project Next Summer

To save money, minimize disruption to students and help construction crews get through the noisiest, dirtiest work more quickly, New Canaan should line up the proposed renovations and additions at Saxe Middle School for a June 2016 start, according to those closest to the estimated $17.1 million project. Town officials are expected in September to decide whether to approve a committee’s recommendation—backed by the Board of Education in May— to renovate the Saxe auditorium, expand performing arts classroom spaces and build a 2-story, 12-classroom addition on the northwest corner of the school. According to Jim LaPosta Jr., principal at JCJ Architecture—a firm that’s being retained as the project’s architect—getting a shovel into the ground next June is important “because then it gives you two full summers” to finish the job. “I’ve been doing this a long time and one thing I know about school construction is summers are pretty precious, because when nobody is on the site the contractors can fully work,” LaPosta said Wednesday during an update on the project (the full presentation can be found here) before the Town Council, held in the Community Room at the New Canaan Nature Center. “They don’t have to worry about students, don’t have to worry about construction.

Did You Hear … ?

We’re hearing there’s a town DPW worker who enjoys Kahlúa in the morning. Locust Avenue resident Lauren Cerretani told that she named her 4-year-old rescued Labrador retriever mix ‘Kahlúa’ as soon as she laid eyes on the dog, adopted from the Myrtle Beach, S.C. area at age 13 weeks. (Cerretani’s previous dog was named ‘Bailey.’)

Each morning after 7 a.m., Cerretani walks Kahlúa downtown, and there, during the summer months, she inevitably spots Walt Jaykus of the New Canaan Department of Public Works. Jaykus’ duties include watering the hanging baskets on the lampposts, and he’s had a connection to Kahlúa since the dog moved to New Canaan. “My dog either spots his water cart or Walt himself and she’s pulling me,” Cerretani said.

How Much Is Too Little?

A mom friend in town asked me recently why New Canaan should build onto Saxe. “Why not build another elementary school instead and make them K through five? Then the middle school would really be a middle school.”

I told her the story of Center School, New Canaan’s fourth elementary school, now the farmer’s market parking lot next to the public library. My friend had no idea that New Canaan used to have a fourth elementary school. In 1983, the economy was what it was, enrollment was not as robust as it is now or will be, and the town went back and forth between closing Center School or South School.

Letter: Update on Saxe Building Project, Next Steps

After extensive research, the Saxe Building Committee recommends Option 3A (which includes auditorium renovation, music classroom expansion, and a 12-classroom addition) to best meet the educational space needs at Saxe in light of already high and increasing enrollment, state and federal mandates, and to provide flexibility as programs evolve. The total estimated cost of Option 3A is $16.9 million, which would be bonded by the town. On May 5th, the Board of Education voted unanimously to approve Option 3A. On May 6th, the Board of Finance (BOF) approved $750,000 for pre-construction funding including the fees for the architect to create a schematic design of the proposed renovations and addition. On May 20th, the Town Council (TC) will vote on giving the final approval for the pre-construction funding to keep the process moving forward.

Board of Ed Supports $16.9 Million Building Project at Saxe

The Board of Education on Tuesday voted 9-0 in favor of a recommendation to renovate the Saxe Middle School auditorium, expand performing arts classroom spaces and build a 2-story, 12-classroom addition on the northwest corner of the building for an estimated $16.9 million. The proposal, which also includes one relocated science/STEM classroom in the addition, would meet pressing enrollment needs by providing enough classrooms “without sacrificing program or class sizes, and put students into appropriately sized classroom spaces,” said school board member Penny Rashin, who helped lead a committee of residents and town and district officials who are overseeing the project. “While the cost is significant, we think this option provides an efficient solution to the needs of students at Saxe and urge you to support it,” Rashin said at the Board of Ed’s special meeting, a second read of the building proposal, held in the Choral Room at the middle school. On Wednesday, Rashin said, the Saxe Building Committee will go before the Board of Finance to seek $750,000 in preconstruction funding for the project (architects, engineering, legal, owner’s rep, environmental testing, construction manager and cost estimating). Parents and school board members in voicing support for what’s been called “Option 3A” pointed to rising enrollment at a school built for 1,200 students and attendant curriculum needs for the student body.