$35M school renovation progresses; Project will improve all local schools.

Byline: John Dignam

THOMPSON - New boilers are scheduled to be fired up this week, and work will shift inside as progress continues on the $35 million renovation and addition to the town's school complex.

Workers last week were finishing installation of windows and doors and completing roof work.

"This is a comprehensive project, and one of the challenges has been to do the work through the school year," said School Superintendent Michael W. Jolin. "It's gone well."

The project will touch all grade levels of the 1,477-student school system, with additions and renovations to the high school and middle school, renovations to the elementary school and the building of a two-story state-of-the-art early childhood learning center.

It includes a new 650-seat auditorium, administrative suite, media center, art and science rooms and five classrooms in the high school. Improvements include 14 new classrooms in the middle school and renovated space in the elementary school, including the cafeteria.

There also is new multipurpose athletic field and a new baseball field.

"This has been in the works for five years, and we have been very fortunate to have the support of the community," David E. Johnson, School Building Committee chairman, said yesterday of the project.

"I'm sure the children and parents are looking forward to this, as are the teachers," Mr. Johnson said with a laugh. A veteran of 35 years in the Thompson school system, he retired in 1996 as middle school principal.

He said the project is on time and on budget. The early childhood education center is scheduled to be finished in December, with preschool through Grade 2 students moving to it in January.

Unlike many school buildings that are adapted for small children, the center was designed for youngsters, he said.

"It was specifically designed for those young children. It's really a school unto itself."

Bathrooms, sinks and counters are built to accommodate small children. All prekindergarten and kindergarten classrooms have bathrooms in the room, and the prekindergarten classrooms have observation rooms in them, allowing parents to observe without disrupting classes.

Thompson began offering all-day kindergarten this year.

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