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School Board Sets Graduation Dates, Hears Auditorium Update

Published: April 7, 2017

The Board of Education set graduation dates for both Newtown High School and Newtown Middle School at its meeting on Tuesday, April 4, and heard an update on the NHS auditorium project.

The school board unanimously approved scheduling the NHS graduation ceremony for Tuesday, June 13, at 4 pm, at Western Connecticut State University’s (WCSU) O’Neill Center, and it approved scheduling two, back to back, eighth grade graduation ceremonies for NMS for Wednesday, June 14, in the NHS gymnasium. The first NMS graduation ceremony will be held at 4:30 pm and the second will be held at 7:15 pm.

Superintendent of Schools Joseph V. Erardi, Jr, also explained Thursday, June 15, is the projected last day of the 2016-17 school year. The district, he said, would have a full-day of school Monday, June 12, and Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, June 13 to 15, would be shortened days. The Tuesday and Wednesday, according to Dr Erardi, will be shortened days to accommodate state-mandated elementary school teacher surveys.

“I don’t want anyone to be misled,” said Dr Erardi. “The intent of the [NMS] moving up ceremony is not to have a 2 hour and 45 minute ceremony; actually we are looking to be between an hour to an hour and 15 minutes. The design is to allow folks who are leaving from ceremony number one to be out of the parking lot to create the space for ceremony number two. It will be a replicated ceremony.”

This year the NMS moving up ceremony — which has been held at WCSU’s O’Neill Center since 2004 — will be held at NHS for the first time since the 2003 moving up ceremony, according to The Newtown Bee’s archives. The decision to have the ceremony held at NHS was made during 2016-17 budget deliberations. According to the district’s Director of Business Ron Bienkowski, the approved cost for the moving up ceremony at WCSU in the 2015-16 budget was $5,674, and the approved amount for this year’s ceremony at NHS was roughly $1,100.

Dr Erardi also reminded the board that the date for the last day of school is “predicated on we are done with winter.” If there is a “strange snow storm,” Dr Erardi said, both the NMS and NHS graduation dates will remain the same as approved by the school board.

Building Project Updates

Also at the meeting, Public Building and Site Commission Chair Robert Mitchell shared an update with the school board on the ongoing work on the NHS auditorium renovation project.
Since his last update to the school board, Mr Mitchell said demolition on the auditorium is, for the most part, complete now.

“We are actually starting to take the floor up,” said Mr Mitchell. “No real discoveries, other than the existing duct work that we knew was up there was in much worse shape than we thought it was.”
The duct work discovery, Mr Mitchell said, will mean a “significant change order,” and in order to keep the time line on schedule, Mr Mitchell said his commission approved the purchase of duct work. Mr Mitchell said attention will be paid to the project’s schedule to maintain the “critical August 22” expected finish date.

Mr Mitchell also said there is a potential to use removable seats in the front of the auditorium to create an area for a pit orchestra. That option would require looking into space to hold the removable seats, but Mr Mitchell said other districts with removable seats rent storage for them when removed. The option is something that should be decided on in the near future, according to Mr Mitchell, to order the seats in time.

Board member John Vouros questioned why the duct work was a surprise, and Mr Mitchell later said the information about the duct work’s current shape was not passed on in design meetings.
Mr Mitchell also said he visited the auditorium project on Thursday, March 30, and he said it is “amazing how big it is without anything in it.”

Changing focus to the final phase of the auditorium project — $750,000 will be approved or rejected by voters at referendum later this month — board member Rebekah Harriman-Stites asked if there would be enough time for the auditorium to be completely finished after and if approved by voters at referendum. Mr Mitchell said the curtains would need to be ordered the following day.

“Should this not get passed during referendum, where does that leave the auditorium? What are we looking at on August 22?” Ms Harriman-Stites asked.

“At an auditorium with a nonfunctioning stage,” said Mr Mitchell, adding later, “might as well be truthful about it.”

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