School repairs face compressed summer schedule

By ARDEN BASTIA
Posted 7/15/21

By ARDEN BASTIA There are no buses in the parking lot, no students hurrying through the hallways, and no lockers slamming in between classes. For the next eight weeks, Warwick schools will be quiet while students and faculty enjoy summer vacation. But

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School repairs face compressed summer schedule

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There are no buses in the parking lot, no students hurrying through the hallways, and no lockers slamming in between classes.

For the next eight weeks, Warwick schools will be quiet while students and faculty enjoy summer vacation.

But Steve Gothberg, director of building and grounds for Warwick Public Schools, and his team are taking advantage of the empty buildings to tackle some much-needed maintenance.

In an interview Thursday, Gothberg explained the projects planned for the summer.

In the works are ADA upgrades to Greenwood, Robertson, and Oakland Beach Elementary Schools, as well as the Warwick Early Learning Center at John Brown Francis.

These upgrades include making bathrooms more ADA compliant, enlarging doorways, and adding automatic doors where needed. The Warwick Area Career and Tech Center will also get ADA updates, including an ADA compliant elevator.

Gothberg estimates that these updates will total roughly $3.015 million.

The second wave of projects includes new playgrounds for Greenwood, Hoxsie, Oakland Beach, and Sherman Elementary Schools, along with the WELC. Each playground for each school will cost about $150,000 according to Gothberg.

The construction of the playgrounds will begin in spring 2022, with the goal of finishing by next June. During the summer, Gothberg is working with the playground committee at each elementary school to design and plan the space.

Gothberg explained that another project planned for the summer is re-roofing Greenwood, Hoxsie, Holliman, and Oakland Beach Elementary Schools. However, due to pandemic-related shortages, the roofing projects at WELC and Cedar Hill will be postponed until 2022.

“COVID has done a number on roofing materials,” said Gothberg. “Everywhere we turn there’s been a delay getting materials.”

It will cost about $2.5 million to re-roof the elementary schools.

“The total ask when we started was right around $9 million this year,” said Gothberg. “But we’re moving a couple projects so it’s a little less.”

Gothberg also pointed out that the costs for each project also reflects the design costs.

The biggest challenge for Gothberg and his team is completing these projects on time.

This year, students got out of school later than usual, on June 26. Next academic year, they return to the classroom earlier. Instead of a usual 10 weeks, Gothberg and his team are working on an 8-week schedule, “very compressed schedule”.

“We’re really pushing hard to get these projects done,” he said. “We’ll do what’s necessary for these buildings but it’s going to be a very busy schedule.”

Gothberg also provided updates on the high school renovation projects. Last Friday, Gothberg and other Warwick Schools administrators met with Frank Locker, educational planner, and his team to discuss the next steps.

During the meeting, Locker worked with Warwick administrators to plan the educational aspect of the project by taking a look at curriculum, programming, and student populations.

Gothberg said the next step is to “nail down projections of student populations in both schools for the next few years.”

This is key, since RIDE has specific guidelines for square footage per student. According to Gothberg, Warwick has to find the Goldilocks of school plans, being careful not to over or under design the schools in terms of square footage.

“You don’t want a school that’s too big, and you don’t want one that’s too small,” said Gothberg. “It’s happened in other districts, and we don’t want to create problems down the line.”

“We also talked about what other special spaces we would like,” added Superintendent Lynn Dambruch. “Do we want special collaborative areas with modern flexible furniture, instead of traditional classroom desks?”

“It’s a lot of work,” said Assistant Superintendent William McCaffrey about the meeting. “But we’re working hard and moving along.”

He added that Locker and Warwick administrators reanalyzed conceptual plans, looking at instructional spaces like general education classrooms, gyms, STEM labs, and spaces for Career and Tech programs.

According to Gothberg, Warwick is “on track” to meet the deadlines. “We still have to meet with RIDE to confirm, but we’re in a position to meet the deadlines.”

Construction won’t start until 2023, and will take about three years. Gothberg explained that the school construction will have a staggered start, one building beginning and ending just before the second. McCaffrey says the project is expected to be completed in 2026.

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