Golden Brook School to Get Air Conditioning, A More Secure Entrance

by Barbara O’Brien

When the amount of money available to build the new kindergarten addition to Windham’s Golden Brook School was reduced, one of the other things to be cut was the air conditioning.  Now, however, with some money left over in the construction budget, the system will be installed.

The Henry E. LaBranche Kindergarten Building opened its doors to five-year-old students this past August.  The program had been in operation for three years at that point, but the children were housed in portable classrooms paid for with State funding; money that ran out at the end of last June.  The 2012-2013 school year is the first time the program has had its very own brick and mortar space.

Two years ago, when school board members learned that they wouldn’t be getting as much State money as anticipated, they reduced the proposed kindergarten budget from $2.9 million down to $2,522,591.  One million dollars of that amount still came from State coffers, with the rest coming from a leftover fund balance, plus $900,000 in additional funds from Windham taxpayers.

“The kindergarten addition came in on time, under budget,” SAU Business Administrator Adam Steel said.  After all was said and done, there was a surplus of $133,633.  “This is all that’s left,” Steel stated.  That money could be returned to the general fund to offset the annual tax rate or it could be used to restore some of the items removed from the original kindergarten proposal.

School board members unanimously (5 to 0) decided to spend most of it on installing an air conditioning system.  The system will only be installed in the new addition, Steel explained.  The estimated cost of the air conditioning is expected to be about $115,000.

The kindergarten addition to Golden Brook is also used for the extended year program for certain special education students, as well as for other summer activities for students in kindergarten and first grade.  The system will be installed by the same firm that handled the heating and ventilation system for the new addition.  Steel said the air conditioning system will be installed as soon as possible.

School board Chairman Michael Janus summed up the consensus of opinion, when he commented, “This is a perfect way to handle and budget a project.”

Plans are also underway to design a new and more secure front entrance to the school.  Although the changes were already being considered, December’s disaster at Sandy Hook Elementary School put the project on the fast track to completion.

During a recent meeting, school board members unanimously (5 to 0) approved spending up to $9,300 to develop design plans for the front entranceway to Golden Brook, a facility that houses students from kindergarten through third grade.  According to SAU Business Administrator Adam Steel, $300 of that amount is reimbursable to the school district.

Steel explained that the existing front door to Golden Brook, the original from the 1960s, is currently “in rough shape.”  The entrance also does not meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards and is also not very energy efficient.  Plans are to install a gatehouse vestibule between two sets of front doors, with an intercom system located within the vestibule.  “This will create a much greater sense of security than we have now,” Steel told school board members.

Steel said that no significant renovations are planned for Golden Brook School within the next few years, and that the improvements to the front entrance are considered to be “a long-term solution.”

The $9,300 price tag for designing the new front entrance will be covered by money in the 2012-2013 school district maintenance fund.  If all goes as expected, the actual work could begin this coming summer.  After the design work is completed, “Then, we’ll see what we can afford,” School Board Chairman Michael Joanis said.