STONINGTON — Climbing dusty concrete steps to the second floor of West Vine School’s new wing, Principal Alicia Dawe smiled as she walked into the first space on the right.
“This is one of our rooms for reading instruction,” she said. “And the first coat of paint is on.”
All of the rooms in the school’s new wing will be yellow with a blue accent wall. This room was a sunny color on three walls with the fourth painted a colonial blue, but variations abounded throughout the new construction.
“There are 27 different shades of blue and yellow,” said Dawe, who led a tour of the new construction Wednesday afternoon. “I picked them all myself.”
Across the hall, the new library’s circulation desk was a bright butter-yellow combined with brilliant royal blue trim, creating a warm, inviting space filled with natural light from a wide, tall bank of windows.
“We have a library media space that has a STEM room and a computer lab area with a circulation desk that’s gorgeous,” said Dawe. “Right now our library is housed in a classroom.”
Also on the second floor, the new art room had spaces built out for a kiln and a storage closet
“The kiln in the old wing was built into the existing classroom,” Dawe said. “We did it by OSHA standards but now we have an art room to incorporate that.”
A number of rooms with specific purposes have been designed into the new construction, which is part of a $69 million project voters approved in April 2015 to renovate both West Vine Street and Deans Mills elementary schools and to build a new wing onto each building.
“We are getting conference rooms, a staff room, classrooms, special ed rooms, a library, a real music room, a real art room and rooms for speech and mental health; these are spaces that have been designed for those specialities,” Dawe said. “[In the past], we’ve adapted all of West Vine and all of West Broad to accommodate the needs that we have; this building has been built to accommodate our needs.”
The new wing also has a nurse’s suite with an examining room and an office. The new gymnasium will also be equipped with a soundproof, folding partition wall to accommodate different, simultaneous activities.
Completion of the schools’ new wings was originally planned for July 2018 but the project began later than expected, pushing the occupancy date to Sept. 2018. Once students and teachers can move into the new classrooms, the two schools’ original buildings will be renovated.
The Board of Education also recently voted to consolidate the town’s two middle schools as of Sept. 2019, closing Pawcatuck Middle School and sending the grades six, seven and eight to Mystic Middle School, which will be renamed. At that point, the fifth grade, which is now housed at the middle schools, will move back to the elementary schools.
In Sept. 2018, pre-K, kindegarten and first grade will be housed in the newly completed wing, said Dawe. Grades three and four will stay in West Broad Street School. Once the renovations are completed on the original building, grades three and four will move back to West Vine, she said.
The newly-constructed wing will also house West Vine Street’s lobby, a two-story atrium filled with natural light.
“This is one of my favorite areas, this is going to be all glass and the students can see down below and we’re going to have a gorgeous compass rose laid into the floor,” Dawe said.
The area will also have a secure vestibule where parents and visitors will be buzzed in.
The school grounds will be landscaped with one playground for pre-K and kindergarten and another for grades one through five. A sensory garden and a walking track will also be installed.
Peter Manning, project executive for Gilbane, the school’s general contractor, who was on the tour, said most of the mechanical, electrical and plumbing have been completed and the ceiling grid has been started upstairs, with flooring to be installed next month.
“The downstairs is probably two weeks behind the second floor,” he said. “We’re finishing the building from the top down and that minimizes the amount that you have to go back through finished spaces.”