The construction of the two additions is part of the board’s school consolidation plan approved by voters in a pair of votes over the past year.
The project includes a 4,470-square-foot addition at the end of the school farthest from Route 100, extending beyond a portable classroom that’s behind the school now. (The portable classroom will be removed.) The addition would create six new classrooms.
A second 5,210-square-foot addition to the back of the school, behind the current cafeteria and mechanical rooms, would make room for a new cafeteria, music and art room.
At the front of the building, a new entryway with a gable roof would direct water, snow, and ice away from the entry. Taylor said the new entryway would create a space out of the wind and weather for parents waiting for their children.
The interior of the school will be reconfigured, moving away from the 1970s “open classroom” concept to a more traditional school configuration with closed classrooms. Currently, classrooms are connected by an open hallway running down either side of the school. Under the construction plan, a single hallway will run down the middle of the classroom wings, with classrooms running along each exterior wall.
The new construction will also include the installation of a wood pellet boiler. “It’ll heat the whole place, and the state’s paying 75%,” Taylor said. “It’s a no-brainer.”
Parking at the school will be increased by about 13 spaces, for a total of 63 spaces, by paving a grassy island in the center of the lot and reconfiguring the traffic flow. Buses will have a separate lane for loading and unloading passengers.
Board members asked Taylor about the increase in traffic turning into the school, including parents dropping students off in the morning, and picking them up in the afternoon. “We’ve been talking to the Agency of Transportation about a flashing yellow light, but they’ve been incredibly unresponsive,” said Taylor. “We’re going to be getting together with the fire department, police, and the town highway department to come up with a plan for (safety) and that’s one of the things we want to talk about.”
Board members also questioned the ownership of the school after consolidation has been completed. “The Wilmington School District owns the school and is the bond holder,” Taylor said. “Twin Valley exists through a joint contract through which the two towns agree to share services and costs. Wilmington and Whitingham school districts will remain in existence. That would only change if we became a union school district, in which case all properties become the common property of all districts in the union.”
Taylor said the board hoped construction would get underway sometime in November or December. “We’re under the gun,” Taylor said. “We’re shooting to be in the ground by November and completed by next fall.”
Taylor said the north addition, with the six classrooms, would be the first to be completed. “Essentially the idea is to get the two new additions constructed while school is in session. Then we may try to get the kids out a few days early and do the interior over the summer.”
“The reverse of the usual construction schedule,” noted DRB chair Nicki Steel. DRB members closed the hearing Monday evening, starting the clock ticking on their 45-day deadline for issuing a decision. Steel noted that most decisions take less than the allotted time. “I think we’re averaging about two weeks now.”