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Elementary construction plan OK’d

Work to start at FRES as soon as school ends

LYNDEBOROUGH — The WLC School Board approved preliminary designs for a new addition to the Florence Rideout Elementary School in Wilton, clearing the way for construction to start immediately after students are released for the summer holidays.

In March, district voters narrowly approved an $8.25 million bond that will pay for a new addition at Florence Rideout, the school that all first through fifth graders from both Lyndeborough and Wilton will now attend. The money will also pay to renovate the Lyndeborough Central School, which will house the SAU offices and kindergarten and preschool classes for both towns. Currently, each school houses the elementary student population from its own town.

During a School Board meeting Tuesday, the board met with Kyle Barker, the architect for the project, to review the most recent preliminary layout for the proposed school. The plans call for a three-story layout, which would add a total of nine new classrooms, a music room, an art room, a new boiler room, a new front lobby and office administration space, and a new library space. Slight changes had been made to the plans based on recommendations from the State Department of Education and the State Fire Marshal’s Office, said Barker, but the plans are the same basic format the board has been considering for the past year.

The board approved the plans unanimously Tuesday night, and construction, to be done by Hutter Construction of New Ipswich, will begin the day after school lets out. Barker explained to the board that the hope is to work over the summer, and continue construction of the addition into the school year. The addition is planned to be completed by February 2015, prior to February vacation. Over the vacation, furniture will be moved from the wing of Florence Rideout that was built in the 1950s, and classes will resume in the new addition after the vacation. Once the 1950s wing is cleared, demolition on that section of the building will begin.

The last piece of the construction on Florence Rideout will be some renovations to the existing classrooms built in the 1890s, which will extend into the summer months in 2015.

During the 2015 summer, renovation will also occur at the Lyndeborough Central School. Half of the school will be renovated to become SAU offices, and the other half will work as a kindergarten and preschool program space for both towns. Both schools are expected to be completed by August 2015.

School Board Vice Chair Harry Dailey said he was in favor of approving the proposed floor plans for Florence Rideout. The concept was very close to what the board has been looking at since the consolidation of the elementary schools was proposed, he said, and he did not want the School Board’s lighter summer schedule to hold up the construction plans for the new addition.

“I urge the board to approve this concept,” said Dailey. “I don’t want to put us in a position of the School Board being the one holding this up.” Dailey pointed out that if construction on the Florence Rideout addition is not completed by February vacation, the next opportunity to transfer classroom equipment into the new addition would not be until two months later, during April vacation.

School Board member Fran Bujak asked whether the teachers who would be occupying the spaces had weighed in on the plans or approved them. Barker explained that he had met with a committee, which had teacher representatives to speak about their needs, during the design phase. The plans had also been reviewed and adjusted based on recommendations from the Department of Education, Fire Marshal’s Office, Wilton Fire Department, Wilton Police Department and Wilton building inspector. While the plans could not be officially approved until accepted by the board, all of those entities had “given their blessing,” said Barker. “I think we’ve hit all the stakeholders that we need to at this level,” he said.

School Board Chair Geoff Brock said that even if it caused a delay in construction, he would like the board to always make careful and considered decisions. However, in this case, he said he felt comfortable approving the plans and moving forward.

“This is the same plan, with better decisions, that we’ve been looking at for a year and a half,” Brock told the board. “To me, this is an easy decision.”

The board voted to approve the preliminary plans for the Florence Rideout Elementary School. The board will meet next on May 13 in the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative High School media room at 6:30 p.m.

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