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Elementary Modulars Move on to Design Committee, Aldermen

The School Committee last night voted to install four modulars at three elementary schools.

With a vote last night from the School Committee, at three Newton elementary schools are on a fast-track for fall 2011. 

The four classrooms, which will be installed to alleviate a space crunch at , and Elementary Schools, now move on to the city's Design Review Committee and the Board of Aldermen for approval. 

To review the timeline of the modular project check out

The committee voted 8-1 in favor of the recommendation for two modulars at Zervas and one each at Burr and Horace Mann. Ward 7 representative Matt Hills was the only committee member opposed. 

While he supports the idea of modular classrooms, Hills did not feel comfortable voting for something that did not have a definite price tag.

"I support modular classrooms," Hills said. "I just feel that this is how you get in trouble."

While the cost is still uncertain, Vice Chair Reenie Murphy supported the project moving forward.

"I share [Hills'] concern, but I don't think we have a choice," Murphy said. "Once we say 'go,' it means go. Hopefully [the price] won't come back and say it's more." 

Last week, Deputy Superintendent/Chief Administrative Officer Sandy Guryan estimated the modular classroom project cost at around $1.6 million, including work for throughout each of the three schools. 

This week, though, Guryan came back with adjusted estimates between $1.7 and $2.1 million, depending on the type of sprinkler system installed at Burr Elementary. 

The School Department and architects considered installing concealed sprinkler systems at Burr, rather than the less expensive, exposed sprinkler systems. Unlike Zervas and Horace Mann, Burr is unlikely to have any major renovations or re-builds in the near future and could be considered for the more expensive, concealed system.

The cost also jumped a bit from last week due prices on used modulars being a bit higher than expected. Lori Cowles, an architect with HMHF Architects (the firm hired to study the school sites for modular classrooms), explained that the School Committee's requirements for used modulars (less than three-years old, meets energy standards) upped the price to nearly that of a new modular. 

Savings would still occur, though, as the used modulars are likely to take less time to install, Cowles explained.

Although the committee would like to see the modular classrooms finished by the start of school this September, a timeline presented last week does not have the project complete until sometime in October. Assistant Superintendent Joe Russo has worked with the three schools' principals on contingency plans if the new classrooms are not finished by the start of school. To view that contingency plan, . 

Many parents from the Countryside Elementary School community were in attendance at last night's committee meeting to voice concern about space needs at their own school. Stay tuned to Patch for the full Countryside story. 

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