Finishing touches put on Birch Grove

Jul. 22—TOLLAND — About 500 elementary-age students in kindergarten to Grade 2 will be welcomed to Birch Grove Primary School on the first day of school Sept. 8, officials announced today.

A grand opening celebration, when families can tour the new building at 247 Rhodes Road, is set for Saturday, Sept. 18, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. A rain date is scheduled for the same time on Saturday, Sept. 25.

"Everything about the building is state-of-the-art," Superintendent Walter Willett said today. "It's a flagship school not only for Tolland, but for the state of Connecticut."


WHAT: After a year of construction to address a crumbling foundation at Birch Grove Primary School, the building will be ready to open its doors to students Sept. 8.

CELEBRATION: A grand opening will be held from 10 a.m. to1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18, for parents and residents.

RAIN DATE: Saturday, Sept. 25.

In addition to new infrastructure, the school will feature a new playscape for students of all abilities, advanced Wi-Fi network, and technology that will offer students more educational opportunities in the classroom, Willett said.

The new construction was made necessary after school officials discovered a crumbling foundation at the original building in late 2018. Willett wrote to the state in January 2019 requesting an emergency status for the building. Soon after a Building Committee was formed to oversee the project, which consisted of residents, town, and school officials.

Demolition of the former Birch Grove Primary School at 247 Rhodes Road began in 2019 due to the mineral pyrrhotite found in the foundation's concrete. Construction on the new school began in January 2020.

The emergency project was estimated to cost about $45.8 million of which 89% of will be reimbursed by the state, officials say.

Board of Education member and building committee liaison, Dana Philbin, said that everything in the building, from the paint colors to the playscape, was strategically selected to aid in teaching students at all levels.

"We're excited to have our youngest students in Tolland to be welcomed back to this state of the art facility this fall," Philbin said.

"It's very exciting. We are nearing the end of the project," Town Council Building Committee Liaison Lou Luba said. "I think this school is going to be an outstanding school and a gem for Tolland, and the building committee is staying mindful of staying within the approved budget."

Willett and some school officials thanked the building committee members, JCJ Architecture, D'Amato Construction company, state, and school staff for the success of the project.

"It's something we can all be thankful for," Willett said. "They kept it within a reasonable timeline and budget. That's no small feat. Something we are deeply thankful for. It's like Tolland's miracle."

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