When the school offices move into the Richard E. Venus building — the old high school building — they’ll be gaining square footage, or at least they will on paper.

Chief architect Jeff Mose explained during a presentation on the move at the school board’s April 23 meeting that since the space was originally a school, built in the 1930s, much of the extra square footage — roughly 5,000 additional square feet — will be taken up by central hallways on both floors of the new space.

“The last thing that I did was I went and measured everyone’s office space and made sure it fit,” said school Facilities Director Joe Morits. “It was a tireless effort, but it fit perfectly.”

The new office space will also add full handicapped accessibility.

Board of Education Vice Chairman Doug Silver thanked the architects for making the new office accessible.

“Right now we do not have that for our superintendent’s office,” he said.

Asbestos

School board Chairwoman Fran Walton asked whether the building had any asbestos that would need to be cleared.

“It’s not that bad,” Town Engineer Charlie Fisher told the board. The asbestos in the building is mostly pipe coverings and tiling that will need to be removed, he explained. “All of the environmental concerns will be taken care of in the first stage, so you’ll be coming into a clean building.”

‘Upgrade’

Walton said she wanted it to be clear that the move was at the Board of Selectmen’s request, not the school board’s. “Just to be clear, the BOE has not requested the move,” Walton said.

She also asked what would happen if Chefs’ Warehouse, which occupies most of the north end of the building’s first floor, decided to expand again. The company is simultaneously planning an expansion into part of the second floor on the north side of the building.

First Selectman Rudy Marconi didn’t rule that out. “Is it possible? I’m not going to say no,” he said.

“I kind of see it as an upgrade,” said Mose. He said the new office represents “the hierarchy of how the town perceives the Board of Education.”

Silver raised a concern about the timing and cost of moving the central office network connections and servers over to the new space.

“Technology people love hearing, ‘You just plug it in,’” he said with a chuckle.

Moving the office fiber-optic cable might prove difficult. “Rob, can you move fiber?” Marconi asked acting Superintendent Dr. Robert Miller, who is also the district technology director.

“It depends,” Miller said. There “could be downtime if it all needs to be moved over,” he said.

Why move?

The central office move is being driven by an expansion of the Ridgefield Playhouse.

“As you all know, the Playhouse has shown a desire to move into the first floor where the Board [of Education’s] administrative offices are to expand their use of that area to help with their sustainability going into the future,” Marconi said. He said the Playhouse asked the Board of Selectmen to allow it to move into the space about 18 months ago. The selectmen agreed.

“We feel that it is a great economic driver for the town of Ridgefield, and offers the potential to grow even more,” Marconi said.