‘Topping-off’ ceremony marks progress on $130 million West Haven High School project
There were people who said the new West Haven High School building currently under construction would never get built.
But a “topping-off” ceremony last week to celebrate completion of the steel framework for the addition portion of the $130 million construction and renovation project goes a long way toward proving them wrong.
City and state legislative officials got together Thursday, Oct. 11 — joined by most of the high school senior class’ 364 students — to sign a white-painted I-beam before it was erected, according to a news release.
The installation of the I-beam marked the ceremonial “topping-off” of the project’s new addition.
On Friday, some of the key officials involved took a breath to celebrate the work that’s been done so far.
“There’s progress — we’re not just talking about plans on a piece of paper,” Superintendent of Schools Neil Cavallaro said Friday. “There is really going to be a beautiful project for this city, that is happening. It is becoming a reality and I think it’s going to be a good thing for the entire city of West Haven.
“This has been years in the making,” Cavallaro said. “I’m not a real excitable guy,” but “that got me excited,” he said. “Our kids deserve this and I think it’s also going to be a real good thing for a city that’s trying to get back on its feet.”
Those attending included Board of Education Chairwoman Rosemary Russo, Vice Chairman Robert J. Guthrie, Secretary-Treasurer Susan Walker and members Patrick Leigh, Patricia Libero, Jim Morrissey, Karen Pacelli and Rosa Richardson; Mayor Nancy Rossi; Cavallaro; and City Clerk Deborah Collins
Also, City Council members Aaron Charney, D-3; Mitchell L. Gallignano, D-4; Majority Leader Robbin Watt Hamilton, D-5, and Peter V. Massaro, D-6, and Tracy A. Morrissey, D-8, attended.
Joining in the celebration were West Haven High School Building Committee Chairman Kenneth Carney; Building Committee Clerk Dwight Knowles; state Reps. Dorinda Borer, D-W. Haven, and Charles Ferraro, R-W. Haven; mayoral Executive Assistant Lou Esposito; and officials from the state Department of Administrative Services.
“It’s happening,” said Carney. “We can tell you that 15 percent of the project is now complete. ... I don’t blame people for saying, ‘This is never going to happen.’ It sat dormant for several years.”
But after the topping-off ceremony, Carney said, “My message is that all of these people share in the success of this project.
“It took this community and those people to make this happen,” he said.
The signing of the steel beam by officials was preceded by a signing by most of the senior class’ 364 students. The signed beam then was rigged by union iron workers from Proiron LLC of Callegari Drive, hoisted by a large crane, and set by two workers atop the school’s future media center.
The rebuilt high school project, which involves both renovation of much of the existing space and new construction, was designed by Antinozzi Associates of Bridgeport to accommodate 1,598 students. The total finished project will total 265,959 square feet, officials have said.
The completed school will offer a cutting-edge media center, advanced STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — classrooms and laboratories, and upgraded public areas for the school and community. The building will be fully air-conditioned and will have lower maintenance and operating costs while also offering enhanced access and security, the release said.
Gilbane Building Co. of Glastonbury is the project’s construction manager, with Amar Shamas serving as the project executive. The Capitol Region Education Council of Hartford, or CREC, is overseeing the construction financing.
Officials said in the release that the construction phase, which began in April, is expected to take about three years to complete, with a projected occupancy of new spaces in fall 2019 through 2021. Site restoration work is expected to continue until spring 2022.
Officials said the project is on schedule and on budget.
The project’s construction phase, also known as Phase III, is composed of three major “subphases” to allow the school to offer a full academic curriculum throughout the project, the release said.
The project’s first subphase includes constructing the food services, building services, tech-ed shops, media center, auditorium, music and arts classrooms, and administrative offices to permit the transferal of building uses. That opens other parts of the existing building for renovation or demolition.
The second subphase involves renovating the existing eastern three-story building after demolishing the existing cafeteria and media center.
The third subphase includes demolishing the existing auditorium and music spaces, renovating the northern wing of academic spaces, and demolishing the existing gym and southern academic building.
In addition to Carney and Knowles, the West Haven High Building Committee includes Vice Chairman Jerry Calabritto, Principal Pamela B. Gardner, Gary Perdo, Kenneth DiStasio, Dan Haslegrave, former Board of Education member Mark P. Palmieri and Assistant Principal Dana Paredes.