standing Westerly school bus

WESTERLY — The School Building Committee reviewed proposed modifications to the conceptual design of its preferred option for a new State Street School building Tuesday. The committee also reviewed conceptual plans for additions and renovations to Dunn's Corners Elementary School.

Tracey Donnelly of Robinson Green Beretta Architects provided an overview of the two new plans for the State Street facility, which would house all of the school district's third- through fifth-grade students. The new plans were based on input that the committee provided during its Nov. 27 meeting.

Site Plan A, which several committee members said they favored, moves the building in a southeast direction, closer to the Westerly Senior Center. The move would open up more space for a play area in the back of the school, Donnelly said. Staff members and visitors would drive into the school from State Street and could exit onto State Street or Westminster Street. The bus drop-off loop would be accessible from Hollis Street.

Site Plan A would move the Senior Center's overflow parking lot to a new overflow lot that would be shared by the school and the senior center. The proposed new overflow lot would be about 30 spaces larger then the center's current overflow lot. Both the A and B site plans would move the school's gymnasium closer to the senior center.

Site Plan B eliminates the exit on to Westminster Street. The footprint of the school would be about equal to the footprint of the current school layout in both Site Plan A and Site Plan B.

Committee members, including Superintendent of Schools Mark Garceau, said they preferred Site Plan A. Garceau said the plan offered better access to the building for emergency responders.

Jack Armstrong, a committee member, said "It shows a sensitivity to the concerns of parents as well as the subcommittee."

Committee co-chair Christine Cooke said a resident had raised concerns about safety and security and whether the plans use too much glass. The cost of bulletproof glass, which  is sometimes used at school entrances, often prohibits its use throughout the entirety of school buildings, said David DeQuattro, managing principal of Robinson Green Beretta Architects. He also said bullets fired from automatic weapons can penetrate bulletproof glass. Robert Hendricks, the education planner hired by the committee, said security experts are more focused on welcoming designs and ensuring ample and good sightlines in new school buildings rather than the use of glass.

The committee has considered safety and security throughout its building development process, said Gina Fuller, committee co-chair.

The plans for renovations and additions at Dunn's Corners School call for a 1,616-square-foot addition to allow for moving the school's kitchen and cafeteria out of the basement level; a two-story, 2,422- square-foot addition (per floor) on the north side of the school to allow for shared space to address classroom sizes that are currently too small under state requirements; and a 945-square-foot addition on the south side to allow for construction of a new, safer entrance to the school.

The committee also discussed preparations for a public information meeting it is planning for Dec. 19. The meeting will provide an opportunity to present the committee's work to date to residents, the Town Council and appointed board and commission members, Cooke said. The committee will also accept comments on its work, she said.

Representatives of the state Department of Education will attend to discuss schedules and state reimbursement rates.

The committee is working on a $71.4 million project, including soft costs such as project management and other fees and a 10 percent contingency, approved by the School Committee in July that would include knocking down the current State Street School. The state education department is expected to reimburse between 39 and 55 percent of the total project cost.

Approximately $5 million would be allocated toward Springbrook Elementary School and $8.5 million to Dunn's Corners Elementary School for renovations to make each into a pre-kindergarten through Grade 2 facility.

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