Norwalk High School Photo Credit: File Photo
State Sen. Bob Duff
Hands Off Our Schools Photo Credit: Hands Off
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal

Around The Towns: School Construction, Regionalization, Bottled Water Warning

Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff led passage of legislation to provide more than $1.4 million in state funding for construction at Norwalk High School as well as schools in Bridgeport and Fairfield.

“State funding for school construction is critical to helping local taxpayers and our students,” Duff said. “By expanding the facilities for Norwalk’s highly successful and popular Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts program we are strengthening our schools and preparing our young people for jobs after high school."

Senate Bill 1210 -- the 2019 school building project bonding bill - authorizes eight school construction grants totaling $160.5 million toward total project costs of $229 million. 

The legislation also allocated $90.7 million for Bassick High School in Bridgeport and $87,500 for construction projects for two high schools in Fairfield 

Senate Bill 1210 also exempts certain school construction projects from various statutory and regulatory requirements to allow them to qualify for state reimbursement grants or a higher level of reimbursement.

The Norwalk project will alter and expand the existing culinary arts program and upgrade all bathroom facilities at Norwalk High School. Since the Norwalk Board of Education evaluated and developed a pathway for the Hospitality Management/Culinary Arts program at Norwalk’s two high schools, there are more than 200 Norwalk High School students currently on a waiting list for the program.

To accommodate for the increased demand for the Hospitality Management/Culinary Arts program approximately 2,340 square feet will provide a hands-on experience with more cooking and lab/classroom space and a commercial kitchen with work stations for cooking preparation. Bathroom facility improvements will reconfigure the floor plans, replacing plumbing fixtures, and replacing light fixtures in repaired ceilings to make them code- and ADA-compliant spaces.

The school construction bill passed the state Senate by a vote of 30-1 and the House of Representatives by 93 to 35. Other Connecticut schools to receive state funding for construction under the bill are in Enfield, Middletown, Newington and Simsbury.

Hands Off Our Schools

Hands Off Our Schools announced record grassroots fundraising of more than $25,000 in the second quarter of this year. 

The group said that  the donations reflect a growing movement in favor of local control of Connecticut’s schools.

This movement helped stop three bills from becoming law that would have forced regional control of some districts.

Two of the bills were sponsored by senior members of the legislative majority and one was proposed by Gov. Ned Lamont as part of the state budget negotiations.

Hands Off Our Schools is a statewide, non-partisan movement that advocates for local decision-making in education for all school districts within Connecticut.

The group's 10,000 members plan to be ready if regionalization proposals come up again in the next legislative session. This movement includes parents, teachers, and other supporters interested in protecting towns’ autonomy, schools’ excellence and the future of Connecticut children.

Hundreds of Hands Off Our Schools members spoke at public hearings earlier this year. Thousands more submitted written testimony in opposition to the forced regionalization plans offered by Lamont and others. 

Hands Off Our Schools member Chris DeMuth Jr said, “Why were our schools under such threats to begin with? How can we make sure that no one who threatened them has the ability to do so ever again?” 

Hands Off Our Schools supports voluntary shared services between school districts and between school districts and municipal governments to improve or maintain educational outcomes and reduce costs. 

For more details, click here. 

Bottled Water Warning

Bottled water from Massachusetts containing hazardous PFAS was sold at stores throughout Connecticut in July, demonstrating the need for federal regulations regarding the so-called forever chemicals, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said this week.

“The federal Food and Drug Administration has a statutory and moral responsibility to set limits on these kinds of chemicals found in food [products]," Blumenthal said. “It’s failed to do so.”

Last month, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services tested the levels of PFAS within bottled water from Spring Hill Dairy Farm in Haverhill, Mass. — and found them to be about twice as high as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended limit, according to Blumenthal.

The same hazardous chemical leaked into a river near Bradley International Airport last month.

Blumenthal held a news conference at the state Capitol on July 29 to say that setting enforceable standards on the levels of PFAS allowed in drinking water should be a federal responsibility “because this issue is national in scope.” 

The so-called "forever chemicals" are known to pose a risk to both human health and the environment. They have been linked to cancer, decreased fertility, hormone disruption and problems with the liver, thyroid and immune system functions. They are known as forever chemicals because they do not break down in the human body and are difficult to remove from the environment.

Blumenthal said drinking water shipped and sold by Spring Hill Dairy Farm after July 24 should be safe because the bottler installed charcoal filters to remove PFAS.

A new interagency task force will soon begin work on a plan to minimize the impact of PFAS

The group of about 20 state officials representing 18 state agencies met on July 30. The panel is led by the commissioners of the Departments of Energy and Environmental Protection and Public Health.

Gov. Ned Lamont formed the state task force to minimize residents' environmental exposure to the chemicals.

"The risks that PFAS pose to Connecticut residents and the environment command our attention and prompt action," Lamont said.

Last month, a toxic firefighting foam containing PFAS -- stored at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks -- leaked into the Farmington River.

PFAS chemicals also have been used in numerous products, including nonstick cookware and food packaging, because they can repel water, oil, grease and heat. Such properties made PFAS resistant to natural degradation.

Task force members are expected to present Lamont with an action plan by Oct. 1.