Long Range Plan for Plainville Schools
January 13, 2003

Table of Contents

 

1. Introduction

The Plainville Community School Steering Committee was originally formed in February 2000 to secure a favorable referendum vote to provide the Linden Street School students with a modern facility to support extraordinary educational opportunities. This committee brought to the citizens a proposal for a new school on the existing Linden school site, preliminary plans and conceptual design and cost estimate for the project. Despite the hard work of the Committee and their consultants, the November 2001 referendum vote defeated the proposed project; but not the spirit or goals of the Committee.

In the summer of 2002 the Steering Committee engaged Fletcher-Thompson, Inc. to conduct an abbreviated study to look at potential alternative solutions to the Linden Street School problem. it quickly became apparent that any solution proposed for the Linden Street School would have a ripple effect on the entire system due to the need for swing space during a construction project at the site. It is this ripple effect that is the basis of this "long range study". Given the pending ED049 application and subsequent ED049R from the Linden Street School, there is a timeline for this project to begin. This timeline affects the project approach as the Linden Street School should be the first priority for getting under way to secure the State reimbursement rate in effect at the time of the ED049 filing.

The intent of this study is to layout an effective plan for future construction projects for overdue improvements in those building most in need of upgrades. Statements made herein as to the condition of the various buildings were based on cursory visual observations rather than in-depth structural and building system evaluations. Much of the information on condition is self-evident based solely on the age of the facilities. In depth studies would indeed need to be conducted to properly plan the individual projects.

The enrollment information included in this study was taken from historical data and current enrollment projections made available by the Board of Education and the Town of Plainville Planning Department.

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2. Brief History

The Plainville Community School system currently consists of 5 facilities, three elementary schools, the Linden Street School, located in the geographic center of town, the Toffolon School, located in the northwest quadrant, and the Wheeler School; located in the north central section of town. A fourth elementary school, the Trask School located south and east of the high school was closed in the 1 980's and the town redistricted. The old Junior High School on East Street was closed and redeveloped as commercial space as a new middle school became available in 1992. This is important only to the extent that it serves as a visual model of the potential for redeveloping early 2 01h century buildings, such as the Linden Street School. The Middle School of Plainville is located directly across Northwest Drive from the Toffolon School and the Plainville High School is in the geographic center of town two blocks south of the Linden Street School.

Student enrollment projections over the past decade have been fairly accurate and show a general, though not drastic upward trend. Since the 1996-97 school year to the present there was an increase from 2597 total enrollment to 2667 or increase of 70 students or 2.7%. The town has been able to accommodate its students at all levels within the existing system facilities with relatively minor work. The most recent major project was the Wheeler Elementary School, originally built in 1955, it was expanded to accommodate increased enrollment and renovated to eliminate code violations in 1996. It was reported that the project was built with an abbreviated space program and two of the originally planned classrooms were not constructed. These two classrooms would have expanded the capacity to above the current capacity (based on Board of Education policy on class size) to about 420. Prior to the Wheeler project was the construction of the new Middle School on Northwest Drive in 1992. Prior to the Middle School project, the Linden Street School and High School had significant additions built in the early I 970's, some 30 years ago.

Based on the clear need for updating the Linden School, the oldest of the town's school buildings, in 1999 a comprehensive Building Evaluation Study of the Linden Street School was commissioned by the town followed by a feasibility study of various options including completely new school and three iterations of renovations incorporating different pieces of the existing facility. A scheme for an entirely new school was preferred and brought to town wide referendum vote in the Fall of 2001 and defeated.

The School Steering Committee, in the late summer of 2002, hired Fletcher-Thompson, Inc. to study the various possibilities of utilizing the original Linden Street School building in a project for reconstructing the Linden Street School. The previously filed ED-049 grant application, and an ED049r revised grant application to the state is pending. Local funding authorization for the project should be approved by the town by June 2003 to preserve the current reimbursement rate.

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3. The Problem

These five schools have served the town well until the past few years. Current enrollments have the schools operating at or above their respective capacities (based on target class sizes determined by the Board of Education). In addition, most of the facilities are 30 to 50 years old, and the original part of Linden, which is still in use as an elementary school nearing 100 years old. With today's educational environment relying in a large part on technology and distance learning techniques, some of the facilities are clearly outdated. The State's building code, life safety and accessibility codes have changed and adapted to today's building uses and occupancies. The buildings themselves, unfortunately, have not. Many of the facilities are no longer in compliance with codes and regulations now in place to provide accessibility for the handicapped and physically impaired individuals, assuring life safety measures in case of emergencies, and requiring the structural integrity of the buildings themselves.

Additionally, these buildings, excepting the Middle School, were built in a time when fossil fuels were inexpensive by today's standards and energy efficiency was not a priority. Today the town is paying the price for thermally inefficient buildings. Uninsulated or poorly insulated buildings with single glazed non-thermally broken windows have excessive heat loss and are expensive to operate. Thermal comfort is one of the major complaints in school buildings. Lack of control of heating and ventilation can lead to problems with indoor air quality. Presently, the insurance industry has a riveting focus on mold claims in buildings with an increasing number of claims for mold damages being denied. Buildings with poor indoor air quality frequently have mold problems as the source. These problems typically derive from the inability to control moisture in a building. Complaints of poor indoor air quality in the Town's schools have been noted.

The more immediate problem is the need to take advantage of the pending ED-049/ED-049r grant application by moving forward with the inevitable project at the Linden Street School. Despite the fact that a new school proposal was defeated in a recent referendum vote, the idea itself is not at all unreasonable and makes sense both functionally and economically.

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4. The Schools

The Louis Toffolon School built in the early 1960's accommodates the respective district's students although somewhat less comfortably than the Linden and Wheeler Schools. Today the burgeoning enrollment has instructional activities taking place in the corridors and other spaces not intended as teaching spaces. The enrollment pressure on the Toffolon School continues to grow as residential development in the northwest quadrant of the town is increasing (for detailed information see Town Planner's projections in the appendices). The building, being in generally good condition and structurally sound, is aging and in need of code, energy, and accessibility upgrades and general renovation. The upward trend in the Toffolon district enrollment indicates a need for expansion to accommodate additional students. This problem can be solved by expansion of the existing school and/or redistricting. The Toffolon site is constrained by the abutting properties so vertical expansion of the building should be considered.

F.T. Wheeler School having been recently expanded and renovated was not specifically included in this forecast. Based on the assumptions that the typical building code and accessibility issues were addressed, as well as the buildings systems, the condition of the building should be acceptable for many years to come. The areas of residential development in town do not appear to have a direct impact on the Wheeler district. The estimated target capacity is 376.

The Linden Street School had an expansion project in the early 1970's and has comfortably accommodated the district's students until recently. Enrollment is now up to 395. The 1970's project did little to upgrade the original building and it remains today with many issues that do not comply with current building, life safety, and accessibility codes and regulations. In a recent effort the school department attempted to resolve the enrollment and aging facility problems by proposing a new Linden Street School as noted above. This proposal was defeated in a referendum vote in the fall of 2001. The reasons are varied and many as to the defeat, but the consensus opinion seems to fall on 1) the sentiment for keeping the original Linden Street Building, and 2) the competing library project at the referendum vote and 3) the individual district priorities (the project at Linden did nothing to resolve the problems at other schools).

The Middle School built in 1992 has an estimated capacity of 670. The building has undeveloped space available which would accommodate for at least four full size classrooms, which if developed would increase the capacity by approximately 90 students. A resulting capacity of 760 should accommodate middle school students through the current enrollment projections. Should more space be needed the option of reclaiming the space in the school recently developed by the Oak Hill School for the Blind upon expiration of their lease is a possibility.

The High School, originally built in the mid-1 950s, was expanded in the early 70's and is now some 30 to 50 years old. Very little has been done to update the school since that time. it has numerous code (due to code revisions) and accessibility issues and needs overall modernization. A new elevator was installed in 2002 at the east end of the school to provide

accessibility to the second floor, but given the length of the building a second accessible means of access to the second floor is recommended, as the existing ramp does not meet ADA guidelines. Finishes in the building are generally in very worn or damaged condition that exacerbates the poor ambience inside the school. As the high school's programs have changed over the years with the increased use of technology, many of the schools spaces are no longer serving their original purpose (e.g., industrial arts areas) and should be adapted to new functions. The basic structure of the building is sound and should be built upon. The building systems, including heating ventilation and air conditioning, and plumbing systems are all aging and according to a 1996 ServiceMaster Facility Conditions Survey, most systems have outlived their recommended service life. This is further supported by industry standards for mechanical systems service life.

Current and future educational programs should be analyzed to best design the new uses for the existing building to maximize space utilization. In terms of increasing space utilization, the building now contains non-program elements that occupy potential instructional space, namely, the Board of Education offices, the CREC functions, Adult Education programs, and a Pre-kindergarten program. These spaces if given back to the high school amount to 12,400 square feet.

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5. The Solutions

The Linden Street School should be expanded to a capacity of 553 (in accordance with the pending EDO-49r) and by that expansion help solve the Toffolon enrollment problem by taking more students through redistricting. Growth in the current Linden district is limited to relatively few housing units within well-established neighborhoods compared to new development in the Toffolon district; hence the bulk of the increase in enrollment at Linden will come from redistricting.

Sequencing of construction at the Linden School as a stand-alone project presents a problem. "Like New" renovation of the original school would require that portion of the building be abandoned during construction. The building would essentially be rebuilt from the structure up. The problem is lack of swing space for the 400 or so students who would need accommodations during the construction phases at the Linden School. At this time there is no available space in town for temporary swing space reasonably suited to educational uses The logical solution is to construct a new school at the existing site while accommodating the students in the existing school though the construction phase. The new school could incorporate some of the core facilities of the 1970's addition as these are in relatively good condition. Once the new school is completed and occupied, the original school could serve as swing space for other school projects, such as Toffolon. Beyond the swing space need, the non-program functions at the high school could be permanently moved into the old Linden building, specifically, the Board of Education offices, CREC facilities, Adult Education, and a pre-kindergarten program. These functions occupy approximately, 12,400 square feet of potential instructional area, (classrooms and shop areas) at the high school. Additionally, the Plainville Association of Retarded Citizens could be moved from the small freestanding wood framed building adjacent to the Linden school into the Linden building. The basement of the Linden building, given its layout, change of floor levels and lack of accessibility would be better used for storage and maintenance purposes. The two upper floors comprise some 22,800 s.f. A conceptual plan and space program for the new Linden Street School is included in the Appendices.

By vacating these area the high school would reclaim the 12,400 square feet and as currently configured, gain 9 standard classrooms. If the spaces were reconfigured with new partitioning as many as 16 regular classroom sized spaces could be provided.

The current high school enrollment projections for the 2007-08 school year appear to peak at 951 students and according to the Town Planners statistics on new housing units approved or anticipated through 2010, the enrollment will likely level off. If the classroom spaces are regained there would be sufficient capacity at the high school level for the current enrollment projections.

The high school is currently operating at capacity with an enrollment of 831. However, the building was planned with a much higher capacity. Due to the non-program functions occupying space and changes in educational programs its capacity is reduced. The high school now operates generally on a homeroom basis, i.e., most teachers being assigned a classroom space, but due to the Current capacity there is some sharing of classrooms. An effective way to increase utilization of instructional spaces is to change to full classroom sharing. This method involves maximizing the scheduling opportunities of the physical spaces by having teachers move to the classroom spaces as dictated by the scheduling. To provide the teachers with appropriate private workspace, faculty offices are typically provided. These faculty offices are shared spaces, generally 5-10 teachers sharing an office, furnished with private assigned workstations with computers, telephones and lockable storage. The faculty offices would have access to small private conference rooms as well as general meeting space. An advantage to this arrangement is the collaboration engendered between the faculty members. It also provides the opportunity to bring together different departments for cross-functional communications, much in the spirit of the PHS Unified Arts program. The number of faculty offices depends on the size and location of the available spaces in the building.

This arrangement in the existing building, with the Board of Education, CREC facilities, Adult Education and the Pre-kindergarten relocated to the Linden building, will provide a capacity to accommodate the peak enrollments for the foreseeable future, specifically, 950 students through the 2010-11 school year. With classroom sharing 950 students, given the current educational program, can be accommodated in some 46 regular classrooms based on target class size of 22 and utilization rate of 86%. The existing building is configured for approximately 53 classrooms. This allows for about 7 classroom-sized spaces available for Faculty Offices. This scheme maximizes the available space for the peak enrollment.

The enrollment at the Middle School is now 663 and the capacity about 670. This indicates a need for additional classroom spaces. These can be readily provided by building out the raw space in the lower level of the school (Section 600). This space, if not needed immediately for the Middle School, could be used as swing space for a project at Linden or Toffolon. This build-out project could be easily isolated from the normal operations of the school and could reasonably take place during occupied times of the school year. No other major work is indicated at the Middle School.

The Toffolon district is experiencing the most rapid growth in residential development in the town. The school is operating at capacity now, given the current target class sizes, and will need additional space in the not so distant future. The aging facility is in need of upgrades for code, energy, and accessibility issues. A "like new" renovation and addition is indicated at this site. To maintain equity across the school system, Toffolon should be brought up to a capacity of 550.

The Wheeler School's recent expansion and renovation project omitted two classroom spaces included in the original design. If needed for increased enrollment, the construction of these two classrooms might be easily accomplished, although the need is not indicated at this time, to raise the capacity to 420.

By expanding the Linden and Toffolon Schools to 553 and 550 respectively, the combined elementary school capacity rises to 1463 or 162 students above the 2007-08 projection of 1301. Considering the pace of current residential development and the implied steady increase beyond 2007-08 it is not unreasonable to consider this headroom for future enrollment increases.

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6. Schedule

Please click here to view the schedule, saved as a pdf file. You must have Adobe Acrobat installed on your computer in order to view this file. You can download it for free from the Adobe website.

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7. Recommendations
The recommended approach to solving these problems involves a multi-phase effort. This scheme covers the period from 2003 though the fall of 2009, however, the end date depends ultimately on the phasing of the High School renovation. The sequencing of the following steps takes advantage of the previously filed and pending EDO-49r for the Linden Street School. Obviously, this scheme is dependant upon the passage of one or more referendum packages for funding each of the steps.
The following assumptions are made as a basis for these recommendations.


Step 1:
The Linden solution involves a new elementary school designed with a capacity of 550 students for grades pre-kindergarten through 5. The new school will incorporate some of the 1970's Linden Street School addition, particularly the core facilities, i.e., gymnasium, cafeteria. This approach will help to minimize the new construction of non-instructional space. The existing school would continue to be occupied throughout the construction phase of the new building. An aggressive schedule could have the Linden School open as soon as the fall of 2005. This option also offers the possibility of utilizing the Linden building as swing space for Toffolon students if required.

Step 2:
Once the Linden School expansion is occupied, the abandoned original Linden Street School could be renovated (or not) to provide swing space for the needed renovations and expansion of the Toffolon School. The middle school's burgeoning enrollment will require at some point the build out of the lower level space (designated as the 600 Section) as classrooms. Concurrent to the construction of the New Linden School, the Middle school could be built out to capacity using the 600 Section of the building, yielding 4 classrooms, which initially would be utilized for Toffolon swing space. With the old Linden and Middle School build-out, enough swing space would be available to abandon the Toffolon during construction to avoid occupied renovation and expedite the construction phase.

Step 3:
The Toffolon should be renovated "like new" and expanded to a capacity of 550 (depending on future enrollment projections), roughly equivalent to the planned capacity for the new Linden School. This construction phase could be ready for occupancy in the fall of 2006. The combined capacity for all pre-K - 5 schools would then be 1,463 (assuming Wheeler capacity remains at 350) adequate for the projected peak of 1301 through 2007-08 and with the town planners projections through 2010-11 increasing that number continuing an upward trend at the elementary and middle school levels. With the new building capacities the town should be redistricted to maximize the utilization of the facilities.

Step 4:
With the Toffolon reaching completion in the fall of 2006 the renovation work for the High School could begin the summer of 2006. The old Linden would become available for the relocation of the Board of Education, CREC facilities, Adult Education, and the Prekindergarten program from the high school. This move would immediately open up some 12,400 square feet of space in the high school that would become the swing space for the renovations in the building.

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8. Appendices

Appendices are currently not available online. A copy of the full report including appendices is available at the Plainville Public Library.

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