Wethersfield High School Debuts New Gym, Media Center

WETHERSFIELD, Conn. — Wethersfield High School debuted a new gym, media center and music rooms earlier this year. The 23,740-square-foot addition of these new wings marked a milestone for the ongoing $85 million reconstruction project at the school, which aims to renovate the entire 249,970-square-foot building in addition to the new spaces.

Construction on the project began in September 2013 and is now about 50 percent complete. Farmington, Conn.-based Quisenberry Arcari Architects LLC is serving as the architect on the project, while Torrington, Conn.-based O&G Industries Inc. is serving as the construction manager. The project is scheduled for completion in fall 2016.

Wethersfield High School originally opened in 1952, and several small additions and renovations have been completed over the years in 1957, 1970 and 1992. The building sits on a sloping site and has been designed with five levels of educational program space nestled into the slope. However, the existing facility did not meet current educational curriculum requirements, according to Am’r Rusty Malik, AIA, LEED AP BD&C, principal at Quisneberry Arcari Architects LLC.

“The unique challenges that the Wethersfield High School renovation and addition project presented stem from the prior major construction projects that had resulted in a facility that was complex in circulation, inappropriately zoned for public and educational use, lacked appropriately sized spaces and program adjacencies for the educational curriculum, had outdated and inefficient HVAC systems, did not address current safety standards, and was not code compliant and fully accessible to individuals with disabilities,” Malik said. “Typically, a school with so many challenges would be replaced with a new facility.”

Instead, the school embarked on a renovate-as-new project. The main goals of the project include enhancing building security and adding new amenities such as band and choral rooms, a media center, gymnasium, and sound systems and mezzanine seating in the auditorium. Malik said that the project is also designed with an emphasis on core academic spaces, focusing on consolidating and redesigning all of the science laboratory, classroom and support spaces.

The addition included educational program space for music rehearsal or band practice, a full-size gymnasium, and a technology-rich media center with storage and instructional space.

The new band and choral areas feature acoustic enhancing ceiling panels and lighting that automatically adjust based on the amount of natural light in the space. They also include more instrument storage space and practice rooms. Soon to come will be the addition of an electronic music suite and a studio to be used for recording and mixing music.

Not only is the new gymnasium bigger, but it also includes a new scoreboard, new locker rooms and space for up to 800 spectators to sit in deployable bleachers. It also features a volleyball net that can be raised above the gym floor when not in use, eliminating the need for in-floor mounting units and allowing for more efficient mixed use of the gym, according to Brian Pracuta, project superintendent with O&G Industries Inc. It, too, features more physical education storage space, and the lobby area, featuring the trophy case and snack bar, will reopen in September after renovation, reported the Hartford Courant.

The new media center features large corner windows, making the space brighter and giving it a more expansive feel, and multicolored lights hang in the lounge area. The new library is significantly bigger than the older one, reported the Hartford Courant, and features include many new books, 30 new Apple computers, smart boards and a classroom which faculty can also use for meetings.

Major construction for the renovation portion of the project will continue as soon as school lets out in June. Next up: the reconstruction of the school’s central offices, swimming pool, science labs and cafeteria, reported the Harford Courant.