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Public Facilities Committee Approves Modular Classroom Site Plans

The committee voted in favor of approving a $923,375 request for funding, up from about $794,000

After hearing from nearly a dozen parents who were in favor of plans to put modular classrooms at three Newton elementary schools, the Public Facilities Committee on Wednesday night voted 7-0 to approve the recommended site plans.

The modular classrooms —two , and one each at and — . Officials said the classrooms should be .

While the committee ultimately voted to approve the site plans, it also voted in favor of approving a $923,375 request for funding, up from about $794,000.

Stephanie Gilman, of the Public Buildings Dept., and Lori Cowles of HMFH Architects spoke to the committee Wednesday about the plans, and where the classrooms would be placed on each school property.

Cowles noted that the classrooms would be new or used (up to three years old), and could be built using green features, depending on the bids that come back in July.

The plans for the classrooms were created by following closely the plans used when modular classrooms were added at the Oak Hill School, Gilman said. 

About a dozen parents at the meeting expressed their opinions on the plans during the public hearing portion of the meeting, and asked the committee to approve the site plans quickly so work could begin.

“Time is critical,” said Zervis parent Caroline Wilson. “Our need is past, it’s not future. The students who are underserved can’t wait any longer than the Nov. 1 date of occupancy.”

Burr parent Tracy Carter said she hoped the committee would give its approval.

“I realize times are tough and money is tight,” she said. “There are new developments going in around Burr ­— we're only going to grow.”

Lynn Slobodin, whose home is on property abutting Burr, voiced several concerns on handicap access, moving a tree planter and painting the classrooms to blend in and keeping ventilation systems quiet, though she stated her approval of the plans.

“You need to understand, I’m very much in favor of this project,” Slobodin said.

Before voting, Sydra Schnipper, chairman of the Public Facilities Committee, said the committee understands the need for quick work.

“We’re trying to expedite this as soon as possible,” she said.

There was some discussion between the Public Facilities Committee and the Finance Committee over whether to add in the request for proposals on the project “green” features for two or all four of the classrooms. 

Finance Committee Chairman Lenny Gentile said he was in favor of adding a resolution to have green features on all four classrooms, not just two.

“What we’re really talking about is equity,” he said.

The Finance Committee will take up the plan beginning on Monday. 

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