WHS Construction Speeds Up While School’s Out
WETHERSFIELD - When Wethersfield High School students and staff left for summer vacation in the middle of June, construction crews got the green light to go to work.

       Not that they weren’t hard at it already--the limited amount of parking while school was in session was a dilemma immortalized in Class of 2014 Salutatorian Gregory Corning’s graduation address--but with the building empty, it has been, as Superintendent of Schools Michael Emmett put it, “full steam ahead.”

       “We turned the building over to the contractors and they’re ripping things up,” Emmett said. “Every time I go to the high school my hardhat is with me.”

       That’s because not only are contractors free of the constraints of school day logistics, but seemingly as quickly as students and teachers left for the summer, they will be back, Emmett says.

       And in the time between the school year’s last dismissal and the fast-approaching September, the gymnasium known as Gym A will have to be converted into temporary, make-shift science classrooms and the parking lot will have to be configured to meet the schematic of a dedicated drop-off loop route for parents.

       “They’re keenly aware that they have the time constraints,” Emmett said.

       They’re also adding a dedicated turn lane on Folly Brook Boulevard.

       “So that’ll ease the traffic flow,” Emmett said.

       Meanwhile, crews are in the middle of constructing additions to the high school--a new gymnasium, media center, and music room.

       “They’ve already gotten the masonry and roofing done,” Emmett said of the new buildings. “The windows are ordered, we’re just waiting for them to come in. They’re beginning to do some of the interior and electrical work.”

       Emmett is expecting the new gymnasium to be available by late November, early December the latest.

       “What we’ll do is conduct our phys. Ed. classes outside and when the weather becomes inclement, we’ll focus on the health curriculum so the classrooms can be used,” he said.

       The goal is to have the new space available in time for the high school basketball season, Emmett said. For the teams, it would mean a return home after playing on borrowed courts--the boys were bused to Sports Science Medical Academy in Hartford for “home” games while the girls teams played at Silas Deane Middle School all of last year.

       “There’s been a tremendous amount of sacrifice, no doubt about it,” Emmett said.

       The new buildings are at the focal point of a $75 million full-scale renovation project. A second component will zero in on configuring aspects of the existing building.

       Over at the football field, the bleachers have already been replaced and made Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible.

       “There’s a ramp so that if somebody is in a wheel chair, they can go up there and watch the game, which wasn’t the case before,” Emmett said.

       A new press box, also ADA accessible, has already been built as well. The bleachers now also have railings to aid individuals with disabilities, according to Emmett.

       “We’re making sure the pathways are ADA accessible,” he said.