When students were welcomed back to school on August 28, they were greeted by their new teachers and those from past years, new friends and old and filled with wonder of the things to come in the school year. The work that went on in the closed schools over the summer was clear as fresh coats of paint and shiny floors led children to their classrooms.
“Many projects took place this summer, many to keep our schools in compliance,” Mike Luzzi, Director of Facilities, said. All gym floors were sanded and refinished, tested and repaired all emergency lighting and serviced the fire alarm system. “All of the schools, from the ceilings to the walls to the floors were completely cleaned and floors were all stripped and waxed and the bathrooms are all in great shape,” said Luzzi.
Upgrades to the library and computer room were made at Turkey Hill and all air conditioning vents across the district were serviced and cleaned, new filters were put in. The gym at Turkey Hill was painted and the parking lot was renovated. “I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to get up there, but it’s a major improvement from what it was. There are an additional 20 parking spaces and new lighting,” Luzzi said.
In the fall, ADA update plans for Turkey Hill will be brought to Hartford for review. “The plans were put together based on a feasible study on deficiencies at Turkey Hill School and what we needed to bring the school up to ADA compliance. All of our other schools have met those needs. The plans were drawn up – they went to the bond oversight committee and were shared with the buildings and grounds committee.”
“I would like to thank Mr. Zeoli, the Board of Selectmen and the finance committee because part of the funding for the plans for Turkey Hill School. It was roughly one million dollars,” he said. Next spring, a vendor will be selected to make the required upgrades to Turkey Hill and once school gets out in 2018, construction will begin.
As Luzzi and his crew tended to the district’s facilities, IT Director Matt Ullring was busy behind the scenes making sure the district’s technology was running at top speed when students and staff returned to school. He said that students in first and second grade will be using 155 new Chromebooks and kindergarteners will have 90 new Chromebooks. In addition, 30 old and slow teacher laptops were replaced with new ones. To gain access to the Chromebooks, students across the district will be using new ClassLink Quick Cards. “The ClassLink portal is a great thing – students don’t have to remember their username or password to get into programs throughout the district. What’s nice about this is that you turn the Chromebook on and wave a badge in front of the camera, it will log them in, link them directly to the ClassLink portal, where they can go to whatever program they need to go to. It increases learning time in the classroom and creates a more fun experience for the student,” Ullring said.
New security cameras were added and replaced as needed, too. “We assessed security cameras throughout the district in order to provide the best coverage for viewing by principals, security monitors and police,” he said. There are 144 security cameras across the district, with between 30 and 40 at each school.
Teachers were welcomed back with brand new copiers that are expected to run more efficiently and more cost effective than the prior ones. The district replaced copiers, now under a three-year lease, opting for Minolta as opposed to the former lease with Xerox. In addition 26 grade level desktop printers that cost roughly 40 cents to print each black and white page were replaced with 11 smaller copiers throughout the district. “These cost half a penny to print a color page. There is going to be big savings coming in the upcoming school year,” Ullring said.
In addition, Ullring increased the district’s bandwith. “We increased from 150 megabytes per second to 1000 megabytes per second, which is huge. It will make a much more efficient experience for the end user, programs throughout the district will become more efficient and it’s less expensive than what we had,” he said.
Once the students are back to school for a couple of weeks, each school will host a back-to-school night with presentations from principals and parent-teacher groups, allowing parents to visit their children’s classrooms hear from teachers about plans and expectations for the upcoming year.
By Melissa Nicefaro – Orange Town News Correspondent