Sunnyside receiving temporary fix for winter

Parents sit down with Superintendent Burr for Q & A

Following a question-and-answer session between Superintendent Freeman Burr and the Sunnyside Elementary School PTO held on Nov. 16 in the school’s water-damaged library, which has been a topic of discussion as of late, Burr announced that a temporary fix for the roof would be installed within the next few weeks.

In that meeting Mayor Mark Lauretti announced the decision to rebid for the project in February 2016 and to begin looking for a roof replacement when school ends in June.

The parents who were at the Q & A were not satisfied with the pace at which their children’s school building is being fixed, but they were happier than when they left the Board of Aldermen meeting on Thursday, Nov. 12.

He added that there has also been discussion about gutting the school’s media center in the library and placing temporary furniture over Christmas break. The furniture would then be replaced over the summer.

Burr said an assessment of the library and media center will be made before anything is done to verify what is the best option. He said the assessment should be done after Thanksgiving.

When Mayor Lauretti announced the city would be re-bidding for the school’s permanent roof repair project in February 2016, parents of Sunnyside students expressed their dissatisfaction.

One parent who attended the Nov. 12 aldermen meeting said the school seems to be located in “the part of town that is forgotten” and if he had known he would be dealing with issues like this when he moved to Shelton three years ago, he wouldn’t have moved to the city.

Sunnyside PTO President, Kristine Ray said she was in shock over the city’s decision to rebid versus beginning the project more promptly.

“It’s raining on kindergartners from a new leak in the bathroom and you can’t control the weather,” said Ray. “I am a homeowner and I know the best time to redo your roof is in the spring or the summer, but this is enough. We don’t have propane in here, it’s 1,000 degrees in there. No wonder it stinks, we just get nothing and I don’t know why. It’s a total disgrace the way that this school is being left.”

Lauretti explained that after he spent time talking with outgoing Superintendent Burr, new Superintendent Dr. Clouet, and the architects for the projects, they came to an agreement not to start working on the roof’s permanant fix this year.

“There was a lot of concern of the contractor being able to perform and meet specifications working at nighttime and during the weekends to try and make sure the air quality was at acceptable levels,” said Lauretti. “It’s a requirement and they felt they wouldn’t be able to meet those standards because the weather affects the odor and the flow of air in and around the building. If they’re working at night they would have to stop at a certain time to make sure the air levels are acceptable.”

Lauretti said he is confident that although the patch job, which will be put in place within the next few weeks, will not make the building 100% water-resistant, it will make the building “watertight.”

“None of these buildings are 100%,” said Lauretti.

The rebidding on the project pushes back the startup date for permanent repairs to be made on the school’s roof, which has been in need of repairs for years now, according to Ray.

According to Superintendent Burr, the project doesn’t qualify as a renovation, and a rough estimate is that the winter patch job will cost the city around $50,000. Burr added that the patch job shouldn’t take more than five days to complete.

An estimate for the permanent repairs to the leaky roof, which are projected to take place in the summer of 2016, would cost the city more than $1 million, according to Board of Education Chairman Mark Holden.

When the city received an estimate of the cost for the roof to be repaired before the end of 2015, the time constraints from weather and classes taking place resulted in a significantly higher price. Holden explained that if the work had been done before the end of 2015, the work on the roof would have had to take place at night and on the weekends in the midst of cold weather.

Board of Aldermen President John Anglace requested that the Board of Education assign a project coordinator and clerk.

“There’s a need to not only get the work but to communicate as they go along what is happening. Otherwise, we’ll go from month to month without knowing. Even those of us who should know don’t know,” said Anglace.

When tempers flared at the Board of Aldermen meeting, Lauretti explained his limitations as mayor and expressed why he feels the delay has occurred.

“You’re talking to the wrong people and I know you don’t want to hear that, but I’m going to keep telling you we don’t have any control over that. This is the system,” said Lauretti. “We have no problem putting roofs on other schools; why are we having a problem putting one on Sunnyside? I’ll tell you why, we’re having a problem because we have a superintendent of schools and a chairman of the Board of Education who have never done a project before and didn’t understand the process and missed the window of opportunity.”

Ray and other parents said they are willing to help out in any way they can in order to assure that the project moves forward.

Lauretti suggested they talk with the Board of Education.

Superintendent Burr and Holden both said they are not interested in placing blame for the delay on the project, but they have all of the paperwork they submitted.

“We have documentation versus rhetoric,” said Burr. “I disagree with the mayor’s point of view but I’m not going to get into it. We just want to get the project completed. To get this work done is going to take more than the Board of Education’s commitment.”

“Essentially our role is to say, ‘Hey, this work needs to be done, can you do it?’ and then when they decide they’re going to do it, we have to file paperwork for reimbursement, but we can’t do that until we get information from the city.”

According to Burr, the Board of Education suspects the roof is more than 20 years old.

“We don’t know for sure, but that’s our suspicion,” said Burr.

Burr said he is willing to participate in a joint meeting among the Board of Education, aldermen and the PTO to strengthen the line of communication and move forward with the Sunnyside enhancement project.

During the Board of Education meeting on Nov. 18, Holden said he also agrees the line of communication between aldermen and education board members could be stronger.

"Retired teacher and former Aldermen Walt Drozak suggested that we have a liason to the board of aldermen to help improve communications with them," said Holden. "I will begin attending their meeting on a regular basis in the hopes that I can provide information that might be helpful to their discussions on board of education matters and also to gain information that might help us to become more effective in communicating with them."

Although his last official day in office is Dec. 31 of this year, Burr said he will still be around the school district, as he has family members who attend Mohegan Elementary school.