WESTERLY — School officials are meeting one-on-one with members of the Town Council and others as part of an effort to address questions about the proposed school building project.

Superintendent of Schools Mark Garceau told the School Committee during its Feb. 28 meeting that he and David DeQuattro of Robinson Green Beretta Corporation, the project architect, have started the meetings and so far have met with Council President Christopher Duhamel and Vice President Suzanne Giorno.

Garceau said he had also met with Richard Smith, a former longtime member and chairman of the Board of Finance. Duhamel has sought Smith's analysis of the project and the town's ability to take on the additional debt it would bring.

Garceau said his goal was to "flesh out and think through any of the concerns and ways that we can approach this project that make sense for the community and make sense for the district. So far so good, the conversations have been very productive, I think."

The project stands the greatest chance of moving forward "if we put our heads together and work through this. I think it's very doable and it's only going to benefit the community," Garceau said.

Diane Chiaradio Bowdy, School Committee chairwoman, thanked Garceau, saying his efforts demonstrated the district's desire to work in partnership with town officials.

Christine Cooke, a School Committee member and co-chairwoman of the School Building Committee, said that members of the building committee would confer with Garceau and DeQuattro at their meeting on March 12.

Proposed is $71.4 million project with a primary focus on redesigning the district's elementary schools. School officials have said they are hopeful that the project and its associated borrowing costs will be reimbursed by the state at a rate of 50 percent. A Stage 2 application that was submitted to the state Department of Education is under review. An answer, including the reimbursement rate, is expected in May or June.

Plans call for razing the current State Street School and replacing it at the same location with a new $41.9 million building to house all of the district's students in Grades 3 to 5. Dunn's Corners School would undergo $10.2 million in renovations, reconfiguration and additions. At Springbrook School, $3.48 million in renovations, reconfiguration and additions are planned. The Tower Street School Community Center would be renovated with $206,587 to prepare it for use as temporary quarters for students during construction. Additionally, $4.2 million in improvements at Westerly High School's Babcock Hall and $9.3 million in improvements at Ward Hall would be made. Other districtwide improvements would cost $1.9 million.

dfaulkner@thewesterlysun.com

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