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Berlin High School undergoes renovation. | (File photo)

Renovation affects school day, students say

Isabel Brodersen-Chirico and her daughter, Holly Chirico, are disappointed about how the Berlin High School renovation has progressed.

Brodersen-Chirico has talked to town officials and has sent letters to Board of Education, but feels that she is being ignored.

The problem is that the noise of the renovation, the pounding of the jackhammers, the beeping of heavy equipment and exhaust fumes seep into certain classrooms, bothering students, the two say.

Chirico has recorded the sounds on her smart-phone, the pounding of construction while walking down a hall, the beep beep beep of heavy machinery outside her classroom window.

At one point her forensics class had to move four times and could not do microscope work because of a jackhammer below vibrating the room, Chirico said.

Chirico is not alone. The Citizen interviewed other high school students who all agreed the renovations pose some obstacles during the school day.

“No, it definitely interferes with learning,” said Dylan Stetson, 16, a junior at the school. The noise is not bad in most classrooms, but the noise, such as jackhammering, can “slow you down.”

Other times, students can smell fumes inside their classrooms.

“Nothing will wake you up like diesel in the morning,” said Connor Jones, 17, a senior.

Many of these high school students attended McGee during its renovation, when school was let out for days because of a mysterious liquid dripping from the ceiling.

Chris Shugrue, project executive for the construction company working on the high school renovation, FIP Construction, said he has not received any noise complaints from the principal.

When asked about noise management on the project, he said “I don’t really have a comment,” and directed The Citizen to school officials.

Roman Czuchta, director of business operations for the school district, said besides the parents who spoke at the recent Board of Education meeting, he was not aware of any complaints from either parents or students.

However, during the construction, the district has worked with FIP construction to minimize the sound of the renovation.

“With the scope of the project, there is no way to avoid construction while school is in session,” Czuchta said.

The school district has met weekly with the construction company, trying to keep disruptions to a minimum. For example, the school district informs FIP about critical points in the school schedule, the days when it has scheduled tests.

Also, most of the tools run off electricity, Czuchta said.

“They have bent over backwards to accommodate us,” he said, adding when there has been an issue, it was resolved.

The renovation got off to a late start during the summer, but the construction company does its “heavy lifting,” its major construction while school is out.

In the spring, Czuchta expects the new cafeteria will be finished along with the lower level of the building where most of the regular education classrooms rest.

During this time, though, spaces have been shifted around. The auditorium has been turned into part-storage space, part-football locker room. (The football players say its a better locker room than they had before, Czuchta said.)

“We’ll be playing some musical chairs in the course of this thing,” he said.

Physics Teacher Matt Recore said, from a teacher’s perspective, the renovation is going smoothly.

“They’re actively monitoring the air,” and the administration works with the teachers when their room needs to be moved, following a standard protocol.

The beginning of the school year saw some issues, but Recore has seen a turnaround.

“It was a little dusty, there was some fumes, but they took steps to rectify that.”

Meanwhile, Brodersen-Chirico believes the noise is such a detriment to students that she is sending her younger daughter to Mercy High School in Middletown.

Other students, like Jones, take a more grin-and-bear-it attitude.

“When it gets done, it will be worth it,” he said. “But while it’s being renovated, we’ll think it’s not worth it.”

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