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Proposed Modular Plan on the Table for School Committee

The plan includes four modulars and an estimated price tag of $1.6 million.

After having to reconsider its due to , the School Committee now has a new recommendation to consider that outlines four modular classrooms at three of the district's elementary schools. 

The plan, which was presented during a special School Committee meeting last night, would install two modular classrooms at and one each at and Elementary Schools. Sprinkler systems -- which are now required with the new additions -- would also be installed with the modulars. 

"Tonight’s recommendation is to allow the School Committee to get as much information as possible," said Deputy Superintendent/Chief Administrative Officer Sandy Guryan. "We’re working every day on this project and wanted to make sure the School Committee, public and parents are aware of the level of work that is going into this. There is a lot of city approval processes and we’re going to work our way through all of it."

Guryan underlined that the projected $1.6 million cost is just an estimate; the actual pricing will be clearer once the project bids begin to come in. The estimated cost for two new modulars is $400,000,  $300,000 for two used modulars and roughly $885,000 for the required sprinkler systems [priced at $7/sq. foot].

The School Committee will vote on the School Department's recommendation at its next meeting on Mon., May 23. The recommendation specifies that the bidders must include costs for new, "green" and used modulars that are no more than three-years old. Guryan explained this will give the district a better range of options, as a used modular in good condition could be a better fit for a school like Zervas, which may see some serious renovation in the future.

The School Department's recommendation also says funding for the project should come through the $5 million bond allocation the city has set aside for the expansion projects. However, Guryan noted that the committee could look at placing one of the modular projects, some sprinkler construction costs or expenses tied to in the fiscal 2012 Capital Improvement Plan, which will be discussed at an upcoming meeting.

Zervas plans

To view maps of proposed locations for the modulars, check out the .pdf in our media section above.

Arguably the most cramped elementary school, Zervas is slated to receive two modular classrooms with the present recommendation. Where those classrooms will go, though, was another point of debate. 

Lori Cowles, an architect with HMHF Architects [the firm hired to study the school sites for modular classrooms], explained several scenarios for the two new modular classrooms at Zervas:

  • Option 1: Place two modulars in a wetlands "buffer zone" on the south side of the building off of the end of a classroom wing. This will trigger a permit process through the Conservation Commission which will take some time to get through, Cowles said. The amount of time it would take to process was uncertain, but this option would not disrupt any sort of playground equipment and is the favored option at this point.
  • Option 2: Two classrooms located off of the library. Will have to cut in through library and will likely use some program space, but library could also be expanded into a new modular and current library converted into classroom space. Playground equipment would also have to be relocated.
  • Option 3: Located behind the area of option 2 right off of a corridor and behind the current library. Would lose a tree and a small piece of playground equipment.
  • Option 4: Locate one modular classroom in parking lot area and then another on the opposite side of the building [perhaps off the library as in option 2 and 3]. This could cost a bit more as the contractor would have to work on opposite sides of the building.

While the first option is the favored one, Zervas Principal Stephen Griffin said the idea of expanding the library into one of the new modular classrooms sounds "very promising" and could potentially work if the school found a new location for the playground equipment.

Committee members Jonathan Yeo and Geoff Epstein showed some concern about losing playground space, with Yeo asking for photographs of the site to get a better idea as to what the school would lose or have to relocate if the modulars went in off the library.

Burr plans

Since Burr Elementary went through a site plan process for a modular classroom two years ago, choosing a location was fairly simple, Cowles said. The proposed modular classroom would be on the northeast corner of the building close to the school's parking lot.

"No one could come up with any reason why a different location would be any better," Cowles said. "It's a good spot for it." 

Responding to and classroom changes inside the building, Guryan explained the School Department feels the space needs at Burr are sufficient enough to install a modular classroom rather than convert some of the school's cafeteria into classroom space.

The department had a different architectural firm submit some information and a plan for those renovations, which came in at "a reasonable cost," Guryan said. Installing a modular, she added, doesn't rule out the department looking further into the cafeteria space for options down the road.

Horace Mann plans

Although the department initially thought it may not need a modular classroom at Horace Mann, recent numbers have shown a significant increase in kindergarten enrollment for the 2011-2012 school year. 

Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education Joe Russo explained that just in the last two weeks the projection went from 55 kindergarten students to 67.

"It was a surprise to all of us," Russo said.

The proposed modular would be located on the side of the building facing the , just behind two existing modular classrooms. 

The only area that may be affected by the classroom is a student garden, Cowles said, which will just be a little more cramped than usual.

Sprinkler appeal

Building Commissioner Stephanie Gilman explained that while the city is looking at bids for modulars, it will simultaneously pursue separate bids for the sprinkler systems, as installing sprinklers is a different type of work from constructing and installing modular classrooms. 

Gilman's concern, though, is that the sprinkler systems would not be finished in time for students to occupy the modulars in the fall. Gilman said the city is still working with local fire officials and the law department to pursue an appeal through a sprinkler appeal board that would grant an extension on installation of the sprinklers.

Gilman also said the Fire Dpeartment is currently testing the water pressure at each of the schools. If the pressure is too low, local officials could potentially waive the need for the new sprinkler system, Gilman said.

For more information on F.A. Day project updates as well as the timeline of the modular projects and how it could impact classes, check back with Patch for other articles later today.

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