The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 20, 2009

School Building Committee offers plans, takes questions

Plans call for a new building for classes preK-Grade 2 to be located adjacent to the Wilkins and Corey School Buildings. Once the new building is complete, the Spalding Building is to be removed. (Courtesy HMFH)

At a public forum on the Carlisle School building project held on November 17, School Building Committee (SBC) Chair Lee Storrs announced new adjustments to site and building layouts for the proposal to replace the Spalding Building with a new facility for pre-kindergarten through Grade 2. He turned the podium over to HMFH architect Laura Wernick, who presented the latest schematic drawings and design concepts to an audience of about eight citizens.

Using the most current floor plans and artist’s renderings of the proposed new addition and reconfigured campus, Wernick outlined for the audience traffic and parking patterns, entrances and exits, provisions for handicapped accessibility, location of play areas and various options for the use of space inside the addition and existing buildings, stressing opportunities for multiple uses for space and flexibility that have been built into the plans.

Murmurs of interest were audible n the audience as Wernick spoke, and when she completed her presentation, hands shot up for questions. Many citizens were concerned about provisions for handicapped and special needs students: why, asked one parent, not place a ramp instead of a set of stairs and handicapped elevator at one entrance? Wernick answered that because of the long, gentle incline necessary for a ramp, an elevator would be more efficient in a tight and sharply graded area.

Would the pre-school play area be new and accessible “without boundaries”? Wernick assured the questioner that although the play structure is not yet selected, everything has to be fully accessible.

A former special education teacher wanted to know if there would be small spaces available for working quietly and without audial and visual distraction with students. Doyle answered, “Yes, there will be some smaller learning spaces in the new addition, including designated spaces in some classrooms.”

Other areas of concern were whether all second-grade students would have their own cubbies (yes); how many bathrooms there would be per classroom in the new addition (kindergarten and pre-kindergarten toilets are internal to the classrooms, and eight bathrooms would be shared by Grades 1 and 2); and whether the corridors and access areas are large enough to accommodate “60 or 70 kids without being a fire hazard” (yes: all corridors, stairs, doors and accesses have widths designated by code and are calculated based on fire egress requirements). When asked if there are plans to move or remove the Carlisle Castle playground, Wernick replied that to her knowledge, “the castle is not going anywhere; it’s not part of our scope of work.”

Some citizens offered suggestions, such as creating a covered area to allow out-of-weather access to the gymnasium, expanding the number of basketball courts, making the pre-kindergarten drop-off parking area a “designated area,” and changing the current alarm system from one bell to two different-sounding alarms to distinguish between fire drills and lockdown drills, which are “two separate actions.”

Citizens expressed some confusion over short-term, drop-off, bus and long-term parking arrangements. Wernick showed the spaces currently designated for each of these. Doyle added, “We would like feedback on this. We did not have a unanimous opinion at our last meeting. Preschool drop-off is currently over by the Highland. Although the new preschool is closer to the lower lot, we are still discussing this. We don’t want buses coming in to where we are doing drop-off.”

In answer to a question about the disposition of technology in the engineering lab, School Superintendent Marie Doyle said, “The engineering lab can double as a computer lab when not being used for the engineering component.” She also noted that some teachers prefer mobile labs. SBC member Wendell Sykes added that all the classroom areas will be provided with baseline broadband connection capabilities, so that computers can be used everywhere.

This reply engendered questions about storage for technology and other needs, and there was an audible sigh of relief when Doyle answered that, “we are turning some of those rooms (now being used as classroom space) back into storage rooms. The new addition will allow for more space, and for people to grow within it.” Wernick added that there would be a new “dedicated teacher workroom for the elementary grades on the second floor of the new building,” and that middle school teachers would use the same area that they use currently. Doyle noted that, “we have added conference rooms and we can use the multipurpose room as well. There will be hours also when it will be available for senior [citizen] and community groups.”

Concerns about space continued with a question on whether there would be any small rooms for music lessons. The new plan, Doyle explained, does not include practice rooms, but the new music classroom and new choral/multipurpose room can be used. There will be 300 square feet behind the auditorium as well, and space for better instrument storage. She added, smiling, “We can never build enough space for our wonderful music program and lessons.”

Wernick, Storrs, and Doyle addressed procedural questions about the committee’s dealings with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) and the next phase of the design process. She noted that the MSBA is current on Carlisle’s plans and that more information will be available to the public about what they will fund after their January 30 meeting. The present phase of the project is the “schematic design” phase, presented at this forum. Next will be the “design development” phase, in which the committee and HMFH will hammer out the details of the project with teachers, administrators and subcommittees of SBC. This will include a study of learning styles and testing needs which will dictate how spaces will be planned and designated to meet the needs of every Carlisle student.

Storrs concluded the forum by reminding the audience to check the SBC website,, for postings of the latest developments and plans for the school building project. Doyle added a special thanks to Storrs for “not missing a single detail on this project.”

CCTV will air the forum next week, and it will also be available on demand at the CCTV web site. (See also related article on page 7.)∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito