Barrington Council and School Committee sign off on Stage II application

Barrington sends school construction plan to the state

By Josh Bickford
Posted 2/9/24

During a meeting on Thursday, Feb. 1, the Barrington School Committee voted 5-0 to approve the Stage II application for the school construction project.  

And on Wednesday night, Feb. 7, …

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Barrington Council and School Committee sign off on Stage II application

Barrington sends school construction plan to the state

Posted

During a meeting on Thursday, Feb. 1, the Barrington School Committee voted 5-0 to approve the Stage II application for the school construction project. 

And on Wednesday night, Feb. 7, the Barrington Town Council approved the Stage II application also.

The two endorsements clear a path for the district to move ahead on the school construction project — officials are planning renovations and additions at four local schools (Barrington High School, Nayatt School, Primrose Hill School, and Sowams School) in the near future. 

The state department of education will now review the Stage II application. The deadline for submitting the Stage II application is Feb. 15. Rhode Island 

During both recent meetings, residents and local officials asked if approving the Stage II application signaled the end of the design portion of the project. 

And during both meetings, the response was “No.” Officials said the design details will continue to be tweaked and ironed out in the coming months. 

At the School Committee meeting on Feb. 1, Owners Project Manager Joe DeSanti told members of the Committee that they could continue to make design revisions and changes even after approving the Stage II application, as long as the concept, square footage and some other details remain unchanged. DeSanti said the work and any revisions become part of an ongoing conversation with officials from the Rhode Island Department of Education. 

During the Feb. 7 meeting in front of the Town Council, two local legislators shared their questions about the school construction project. Rep. Jennifer Boylan (D-District 66, Barrington and East Providence) said she had scanned the lengthy Stage II application document and did not see the inclusion of solar panels on any of the school buildings. She also asked about electric vehicle infrastructure at the schools.

Rep. Boylan said she noticed that gas-powered boilers at the schools were included in the plans. She said the buildings will be around for the next 50 to 70 years and asked if officials are talking about the use of renewable energy sources. 

Rep. Boylan said she hoped those features could still be added to the plans. 

Sen. Pam Lauria (D-District 32, Barrington, East Providence and Bristol) echoed Rep. Boylan’s concerns and also asked who approves the bond counsel’s plans for the school construction financing. Sen. Lauria said she had heard the bond would be separated into five parts. 

Barrington School Committee Chairman Patrick McCrann said bond counsel has recommended staging the bond — that the district does not need to bond all the money for the different phases of the project up front. He said that would be a win-win for taxpayers. 

A presentation shared during the School Committee meeting on Feb. 1 showed a draft of how the work could be phased.

Barrington taxpayers have approved a school bond of up to $250 million for the school construction work. 

Coach’s call

During the start of the Feb. 1 meeting, longtime Barrington High School teacher and girls basketball coach Stephen Lenz shared his concerns about the construction project.

Lenz said the plan for the new classroom space on the BHS campus looked great, but questioned its location. Situated on field space west of the Eagles Nest and north of the industrial arts classrooms would eliminate the opportunity to build an athletics field house in that spot. 

Lenz also questioned whether officials were prioritizing and funding improvements to the athletic facilities at the high school. He said the athletic facilities — he mentioned the gym, weight room and locker rooms among other features — are in terrible condition and need to be improved. Lenz said better athletic facilities at the school can serve to improve the quality of life for all Barrington High School students. He said those areas are used by all students throughout the school year. 

Lenz said officials needed to include that work in the project. He added that for nearly three decades, officials have kicked athletics down the road. He earlier mentioned that the BHS gym floor was first installed in 1955, cannot take another full sanding, and has a number of dead spots in it. 

Lenz said the classroom improvements included in the plan are improvement, but so too are upgrades to the athletic spaces. 

Pause before voting

Members of the Barrington School Committee listened to a detailed presentation about the school construction from the design team on Feb. 7, but stopped short before voting to approve the Stage II application. 

After McCrann made a motion to approve the submission and TJ Peck seconded the motion, Megan Douglas said she was not comfortable voting yet. She said she had not had a chance to review the Stage II application prior to the meeting because it had not been included with the meeting information packet. 

Peck tried to offer some assurances. He said that at Stage II, the district is putting forth the scope of the work. As they enter Stage III, he said, officials will still have the ability to move things around. 

DeSanti confirmed that information. He said the district becomes locked into the plan once architects finish drafting the set of final documents and begin getting bids for the work. 

Amanda Basse also voiced reservations about voting — she said Committee members had only received the application that night. She wanted to know there would be further opportunities to offer changes to the designs.

Peck explained the late release of the Stage II application. He said the design team was working on the document throughout the day. 

DeSanti assured School Committee members that they were still in the very early stages of the design and there will be many more opportunities to offer changes. 

That seemed to be enough reassurance, and a few minutes later Committee members voted 5-0 to approve the Stage II application. 

Visit the District's website to view the entire Stage II application.

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