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Stratton School renovation moves forward; students to be relocated in 2016-17

After the Stratton School closes for renovation, expected in June 2016, its students will have to be relocated, and officials are looking into portable classrooms, the superintendent has told parents.

Stratton signKathleen Bodie plans to meet with the Stratton PTO on Wednesday, April 1, to discuss what is expected to occur during the 2016-17 school year, now that the town Capital Committee has voted to recommend the funding of the renovation project to Town Meeting.

In an email to parents and guardians, she wrote: "As the reality of moving forward with a renovation project at Stratton becomes more certain, both excitement and interest in project details is growing. Until quite recently, there has not been much information to share with parents as the project moved through the Capital Committee process." Now, the committee has recommended the renovation's funding as well as relocation costs.

Last year, a Stratton building committee was formed to develop a renovation plan to provide parity with the six elementary schools -- all of which have been rebuilt or renovated. The panel represents teachers, parents, administrators, the deputy town manager as well as representatives from the School Committee, Capital Committee, Finance Committee and the Permanent Town Building Committee.

The design plans for the project have not changed since they were presented to parents last year, Bodie wrote. The building committee provided the School Committee, Board of Selectmen and Capital Committee with several phasing options for the project, but after deliberation, town officials agreed that the preferred option was to complete all phases at one time rather than spread the construction over several years.

More information April 1

Assuming the approval of funding from Town Meeting, construction is slated to begin immediately after school closes in June 2016, Bodie wrote, with the school reopening for the start of the 2017-2018 school year.

"While I will have more information to share with you at the April 1, PTO meeting, there is some information that I can share with you now.

"The renovation project will be too extensive to safely have students in the building during construction. Students will be relocated to other schools in the district, and busing will be provided."

She wrote that Diane Johnson, the schools' chief financial officer, and Mark Miano, the town’s superintendent of facilities, met with principals this winter to determine how many classrooms could be available for the relocation of Stratton students.

"Given our enrollment growth over the last few years, very few 'extra' classrooms exist," she wrote. "In the past, as you know, Stratton was the 'go-to' school when other schools were renovated or rebuilt because of its size. There is no other elementary school that has space available to house even one grade."

Portable classrooms

Since then, Johnson and Miano have met with a contractor who installs portable classrooms to obtain estimated costs and to determine possible sites, she wrote. With the contractor, they evaluated schools for compatibility for portable classrooms.

Each school site was evaluated on a number of criteria, including available space, ability to connect to the school building, and ease of installing utility connections.

"We have reviewed the recommendations, but need to review them again in light of the possible need for some additional classrooms for ELL [English-language learners], which would affect available classrooms.

"I expect that we will make a final decision on sites in the next couple of weeks. It is necessary to place an order for portable classrooms at least a year ahead of the installation date, so a request for bid proposals will need to be advertised as soon as funding is approved."

Rick Iannelli, the director of transportation, has also begun some preliminary planning for buses and routes, but cannot really begin planning routes until we make a final decision on the sites for portable classrooms.

"We hope to have no more than three sites," she wrote.

Locations have not been determined.

First look at plans last September

The School Committee had its first look at an architect's feasibility study Thursday, Sept. 18. Charged with seeking parity in an upgraded Stratton compared to the town's other elementary schools, Drummey Rosane Anderson (DRA) appeared to have done just that, Bodie said.

At that meeting, Carl Franceschi of DRA noted the library is significantly undersized, the kitchen is in a hallway, space for the nurse is tight and stairs do not comply with laws protecting the handicapped. On the plus side, kindergarten rooms and the cafeteria, which is also serves as an auditorium, are large.

Franceschi pointed to one key suggested change, aimed at avoiding some longtime issues in the 1962 structure: Move the library, which is undersized, to the ground-floor gym on the east side of the building, not used for an after-school program. 

The report spells out four options, suggesting the steps for improvement throughout the school and what those steps would cost. Read the whole report here >>

Over the years after state funds decreased for school construction, Bodie said the Stratton benefited from and a state grant for repairs and for work paid for by the town's capital plan: a roof for about half building, electricals, wireless, heating and windows.

Sept. 21, 2014: At last, study spells out steps for Stratton revamp, if it can be funded

This story was published Sunday, March 22, 2015.

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