The state Bond Commission approved $5 million in borrowing Wednesday to continue to help the town of Newtown plan and construct a new school on the site of the demolished Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The commission approved the new aid less than a month before the second anniversary of the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting, when a 20-year-old gunman entered the school and murdered 20 first graders and six adults.
“Given that we are just a few weeks from the two-year anniversary, I want everyone to know that the state of Connecticut joins the people of Newtown in their resolve to move forward despite the most challenging of circumstances. The recovery process is still very much under way and will continue to be a priority for me long after students are attending classes in the new school,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said during a press conference after the meeting.
Last year, the town voted to demolish and replace the school located at 12 Dickinson Drive. The state legislature has authorized up to $50 million to help with the project. The panel has already approved $7.5 million to help pay for the cost of tearing the school down, disposing of hazardous materials and preparing for construction. The demolition project was completed about a year ago.
The $5 million approved by the Bond Commission Wednesday will be used to help cover planning and design costs. According to Malloy’s office, the project will soon go out to bid and is expected to break ground in March. The governor said he expects new funding requests as the construction gets under way.
Malloy said the new school will be a two-story building with about 87,000 square feet of space. He said the school will include 23 classrooms as well as a library, cafeteria, gymnasium and spaces for music, art, and computer education.
“The new school is slated to be ready for occupancy for the start of school in the fall of 2016,” Malloy said.
Although state funds are being used, Newtown is managing the ongoing project. Newtown First Selectman Patricia Llodra praised Wednesday’s bonding in a press release from Malloy’s office.
“The action of the Bonding Commission today serves to remind us in Newtown and all through the state of the generosity and support of the Governor’s Office and of virtually every state office and legislator,” Llodra said. “The new Sandy Hook School will become a reality in 2016 because of that generosity. We are humbled and thankful for the continuing kindness of our state partners.”
The 2012 shooting was the impetus behind another item on the Bond Commission’s Wednesday agenda. The panel approved $22 million to reimburse more than 400 public and private Connecticut schools for security upgrades.
The program was adopted last year as part of the sweeping gun control legislation passed in the wake of the shooting. The funding approved Wednesday brings the total state funding under the program to $43 million.
During a press conference last month, Malloy said he planned to dedicate at least an additional $10 million to the projects in next year’s budget.
“Safety has been, as you might imagine, a concern of mine. In 2012 we were forced to take a look at security measures in place at all of our schools and make upgrades a top priority,” he said in October. “We’ve made significant strides in the past year to make sure that all of our students are learning in safe environments.”