RICHMOND — Demolition of the front entrance of Richmond Elementary School began Tuesday morning. A new configuration will replace the current driveways and parking areas, separating school buses from the area where parents drop off their children.

Superintendent of Schools Barry Ricci said the traffic pattern in front of the school has long been a safety concern.

“The current design is unsafe as buses and vehicles mix,” he said. “With the new design, buses and vehicles dropping off students will be kept apart. This project has been on our list for many years, so we are very happy to get it done.”

The redesign and construction are expected to cost $607,000. The funds are already in the current budget, and state housing aid is expected to reimburse the district for at least 61 percent, or $370,270 of that amount.

Robinson Green Beretta Architects of Providence designed the new entrance and D’Ambra Construction Co. Ltd. of Coventry is doing the work.

All offices and activities, including the town’s summer camp, have been moved to Charlestown Elementary School while the work is taking place.

“We have done a major move over to Charlestown school, and that means my office, and my secretary will be at Charlestown school,” said Richmond school Principal Sharon Martin. “We’ve moved Richmond recreation programs to Charlestown school, we have moved our special education program, and the summer tutoring program for third grade reading to Charlestown school.”

Martin said traffic issues and congestion in front of Richmond school have been a safety issue for several years.

“We’ve had a lot of problems with the co-mingling of cars and buses over the years,” Martin said. “There are always buses blocking cars, cars blocking buses. To mitigate that, we are the only school in the district that extended our arrival time at parent drop - off from 8:35 to 8:40 and we’ve done that to accommodate the fact that when buses are coming in from Route 138 in the morning they’re leaving in the same path the parents are coming in, so cars are backed up on 138.”

The new design will provide an entry and exit only for buses.

“Buses will have their own loop where they enter and exit in the front of the building, Martin said. “The parent drop-off will have its own entrance and exit.”

Additional staff parking for staff and parents will be created and new paths will guide people from the overflow parking lots to the building.

Martin said she was expecting the work to be completed by the end of the summer.

“The company has said it’s a pretty straightforward project, so they’re pretty optimistic that it will be done before the deadline,” she said. “Its the most exciting thing ever. We’ve been waiting a long time for it."

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