Construction nears for Side by Side Charter School’s new building

April 11, 2017

The Hour
April 11, 2107

Side by Side Charter School, the city’s only regional public charter school, will start construction on a new $3.6 million, 11,600-square-foot building at its South Norwalk campus this summer.

Work for the new two-story building, which will be constructed on what is now the campus’ parking lot and blacktop play area, is slated to begin in mid-July and finish up by fall 2018 — just in time for the 2018-19 school year.

The new building will house five classrooms and additional office and meeting spaces, such as a computer lab with 24 desktop computer stations and a full science classroom and lab.

It will also include space for an art classroom, which is currently taught via a cart, new special education offices and a 3,800-square-foot basement for storage.

Upon opening, the building will serve as the school’s new secondary building and will replace a cramped and aging set of temporary portables that have housed the school’s upper grades since 1998.

“It’s a very long dream come true for all of us,” said Matt Nittoly, director of Side by Side Charter School.

However, Nittoly recognized that the next year may be chaotic as both the school’s main building and portable buildings will continue to operate during construction of the new building.

“We are aware that this construction phase will necessitate adjustments to what the students, parents and staff of Side by Side Charter School are accustomed to in terms of everyday school operations,” Nittoly said in a statement to the school community.

Specifically, he noted a loss of parking spaces, changes to pickup and drop-off procedures, a limitation on play areas for students and a general increase in activity on school property for the 2017-18 school year.

“Planning for these changes and prioritizing safety will remain our top priority,” Nittoly said.

Funding for the majority of the project, roughly $2.5 million, will come from a Connecticut School Construction grant, Nittoly said. Additional contributions will come from the school’s capital reserves and a loan from a local lender.

Nittoly added that the process for applying for the state grant has been “quite extensive.”

Side by Side school currently leases its main building from St. Joseph’s Church and the Diocese of Bridgeport, as it’s housed on St. Joseph Church’s campus along Chestnut Street in South Norwalk. In order to qualify for the grant, Nittoly said Side by Side extended its lease with the Diocese through 2044.

School officials have hired Michael Stein from Stein/Troost, LLC as the lead architect for the project. They anticipate the project will go out for public bid in early May to secure a contractor.

A building committee — appointed by the school’s board of directors — will oversee the full construction process.

Side By Side Charter School is a regional public charter school located at 10 Chestnut St. It has roughly 235 students enrolled. It was founded in 1997 by six public school educators when the Connecticut charter school law first went into effect. Its mission is “to create a learning environment where diverse groups of students are challenged academically, encouraged to problem solve and work cooperatively.”

Nittoly said leaders had originally looked to purchase or construct a building for the entirety of its school, but reconsidered after failing to find options in the school’s desired neighborhood of South Norwalk.

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