School construction zone
Students returning Thursday will see some changes
Construction workers are busy laying groundwork for a three-story addition at Florence Rideout Elementary School. Construction will be ongoing throughout the school year and is set to conclude at the end of the 2015 summer. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »
Florence Rideout Elementary School and Lyndeborough Central School principal Tim O'Connell surveys the construction zone during a tour of Florence Rideout last week. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »
Hutter Construction workers reinstall playground equipment in preparation for the start of school this week during ongoing renovations and construction at Florence Rideout Elementary School. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »
WILTON — One look at the Florence Rideout Elementary School from the outside, and it is obvious that construction of the school’s new addition is well underway. To one side, there’s a parking lot that has never been there before, offering 18 new parking spaces. Just beyond that, the ground is torn up, and construction crews are reinstalling playground equipment to prepare for the upcoming start of school, while others lay groundwork for a new walkway and sidewalk on the curb.
On the side of the school’s 1895 wing, crews have already started to put in the foundation for what will eventually be a three-story addition, complete with nine new classrooms, art, music and technology spaces, and science labs.
The renovations will eventually lead to all of the elementary students in the district attending Florence Rideout, and all the district’s kindergarteners and preschoolers attending Lyndeborough Central School, which will also house the district’s SAU offices. The changes were approved in March, when voters OK’d an $8.4 million bond to pay for the construction and renovations.
The inside of the school hasn’t changed much so far, noted Florence Rideout and Lyndeborough Central Principal Tim O’Connell, in a tour of the building on Tuesday afternoon, at least not on the upper levels where most of the classrooms are. If you go down into the lower levels — what was once the school’s maintenance and storage space — that’s a different story.
With the start of demolition on the school building, some education spaces have been lost and teachers had to find new, temporary space until the addition and renovations are complete, and they can move into their new, permanent homes.
The lower level has seen the addition of carpeting, heating and temporary walls, as well as a P.A. system, as it is convert into a music room, a long stretch of library and a Title I services room. The music room will be housed in this space until immediately after February vacation, according to O’Connell. The three-story addition to the school is projected to be finished at that point, and classrooms currently housed in the 1950s wing of the school will be moved into the new addition during vacation. The 1950s wing will be demolished.
At that time, the music and art rooms will also move into their new homes. The current music room will become a second portion of the library, said O’Connell, until a new library can be completed as part of the renovations of the 1895 wing of the building, which is expected to happen next summer.
Demolition this summer eliminated the connecting walkway, known as the “breezeway,” between the 1950s wing and the 1895 building. A temporary connection has been built between the two buildings, and the main offices and main entrance are now located at that walkway. It is a secured connection, said O’Connell, and all visitors must be buzzed into the building and check into the office before they can enter the main school.
Summer instruction that usually takes place at Florence Rideout was moved to Lyndeborough Central School to prevent disruption, said O’Connell, but he doesn’t anticipate construction having a large impact on the learning processes at Florence Rideout in the coming year.
“I have been very pleased with Hutter Construction. They have been very responsive to my concerns and to the concerns of the staff. They have thought through carefully any impact the construction might have on instruction. I see there being very minimal impact,” he said.
In fact, there is a potential to use the construction environment the school is in to enhance learning, said O’Connell.
“Construction can be a learning process,” he said. “I’ve encouraged the staff to take advantage of our situation. This could be a great opportunity to learn the process of how things are made.”
O’Connell reminded parents that due to construction, pick up and drop off points have changed. Parent drop offs will now be on Livermore Street, near the 1950s wing of the building. Bus drop offs and pick ups will now be on Tremont Street. Both changes were made due to safety concerns with previous drop-off points interfering with ongoing construction.
O’Connell said there will likely be changes to drop off and pick up points during the year as construction progresses, and asked parents to be cognizant of notices that will be sent home during the year to update them.