Proposed plans: Construction, renovation, demolition for Barrington schools

Some people call for more time to review plans

By Josh Bickford
Posted 7/15/22

Members of the Barrington School Building Committee have two weeks to decide which of the six construction plans for new schools in Barrington they want to recommend to the school committee.

The …

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Proposed plans: Construction, renovation, demolition for Barrington schools

Some people call for more time to review plans

Posted

Members of the Barrington School Building Committee have two weeks to decide which of the six construction plans for new schools in Barrington they want to recommend to the school committee.

The plans — presented by officials from the architecture firm Kaestle Boos Associates during a meeting held Thursday, July 14 at the middle school cafeteria — include the construction of new schools, renovations and additions to existing schools, and the elimination of some schools. 

The price tags associated with the proposed work range from $90 to $135 million, and the work would be eligible for some reimbursement from the Rhode Island Department of Education.

School officials have been anxiously awaiting the unveiling of the plans. 

“I think the options they came up with were really great,” said Barrington School Committee Chairwoman Gina Bae, adding that the concepts incorporated a lot of the feedback shared during the deep dive visioning sessions in May. 

“I also like that they listed out the pros and cons…”

Some residents who attended the meeting questioned aspects of the future work. They shared their thoughts during the meeting’s public comment period.

TJ Peck, an Independent candidate running for the school committee, said that while it is clear the improvements are needed, he had concerns about the process. 

Peck said the decision to rebuild, re-district and reconfigure the elementary schools is a large decision that deserves more time than two weeks of review by the all-volunteer school building committee.

“I have deep concerns that the committee is given only two weeks,” Peck said, adding that he believes the school committee should be given multiple options to consider instead of just a single recommendation by the school building committee.

Lisa Daft asked school officials if Barrington was required to do the work. 

Bob Wilmarth, a member of the school building committee, said the Rhode Island Department of Education did not require the district to undertake this work, but that it was an opportunity for Barrington to improve its schools. He added that not all school districts in the state are pursuing the opportunity.

Daft also asked school officials if they were aware of new legislation 7943-subA, which is intended to repurpose vacant school buildings into affordable housing. 

Daft asked if any of the school officials were aware of the bill and what it could mean for Barrington, since some of the proposed options would eliminate the need for Sowams School and/or Nayatt School. 

“I think this is something that needs to be addressed,” Daft said.

School officials appeared unaware of the legislation. Barrington School Committee Chairwoman Gina Bae later said that the bill would be part of the discussion during upcoming meetings. 

Barrington resident Sharon Santos said two weeks seemed like an insufficient amount of time to complete the review process and collect feedback from residents. She also said she liked the current elementary school model where students attend their neighborhood schools — those from Sowams area attend Sowams School, those from the Primrose Hill are attend Primrose Hill School, etc.

Santos also questioned the public expenditure. She said the tax bill increase resulting from the construction projects would be significant.

“It’s going to be difficult for some people,” she said. 

Barrington resident Mark Hanchar spoke during the public comment period also. He said he had served on the building committee that oversaw the renovation at Barrington High School years ago. The retired architect suggested that KBA offer more detailed estimates for the projects, including future demolition costs for any buildings being removed. He also asked that proper estimates include inflation rates for the work. Hanchar asked who was paying for the current design work completed by KBA — Barrington Schools Director of Finance and Administration Doug Fiore said the work was covered by a RIDE grant.

Hanchar also said he had volunteered to help with the process but never heard back from school officials. 

Thomas “TR” Rimoshytus posed a number of questions to school officials and their consultants, ranging from details about turning vacant school property into athletic fields, to student enrollment figures.

Rimoshytus asked how many more students the district was expecting to see in the future. Fiore said that projections showed a 7 percent increase over the next 10 years. Rimoshytus appeared to question whether the work was needed, based on the enrollment numbers.

Rimoshytus also questioned the presentation, which projected some of the local schools being “under water” in the future. 

Kate Jessup, an official from KBA, reminded people that Thursday’s presentation was intended to serve as a big-picture discussion.

“What we’re asking you to consider today is what do you want your district to look like 20 years from now,” she said, adding that officials do not need to figure out all the details yet. 

The next building committee meeting is set for July 28, when officials are expected to recommend one of the construction options as a path forward. 

Long-term plan

In May, the district held two deep dive visioning sessions where a group of 50 people helped the district develop a long-term educational facility master plan.

“The objective of the Visioning Process is for the design team to understand the goals and values of the community while exploring a variety of interrelated issues regarding school facilities and education,” Messore wrote in a district-wide email. 

At the visioning sessions there was robust community support for “correcting inadequate school facility conditions,” and for “increasing student engagement through learning activities and spaces.”

There was also strong support for improved indoor and outdoor physical education and athletics spaces/playfields; educational equity for all schools; correcting existing space deficiencies; eliminating overcrowding; improving arts opportunities and facilities; maximizing RIDE (Rhode Island Department of Education) financial support; planning for potential universal pre-kindergarten; aligning grade configurations with RIDE certifications and RICAS testing; minimum of three grades in any school; organizing schools to build stronger relationships among teachers and students, and equity across all school building facilities.

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