The committee members in charge of designing and rebuilding the Fox Hill Elementary School were leaning towards a two-story school in a meeting Monday night, with a vote on the preliminary site plan expected next week.
“After spending a lot of time with staff and Dr. Conti’s team talking about the relationships and all the services that you provide for the students, we started to find ourselves saying, ‘Well, what goes on the third floor, and if you put more support services on the third floor, getting to the first floor is more problematic,” said Donna DiNisco, president and principal at design firm DiNisco Design. “We have two ESL Classrooms. We have one tutor classroom, one lit specialist classroom. Those are evenly dispersed when it’s a two-story building, but when it became a three-story building, everything either wanted to be on the first or the second floor, with little services on the third floor, so it started to become pretty imbalanced.”
A two-story building would need to be longer, about 470 feet long, according to some DiNisco Design proposed floor plans. But with the cost and the energy expenditure roughly equivalent with both designs, committee members leaned towards listening to teachers and staff, who said a two-story model would be more manageable.
“Parents and teachers and students are the people that are going to live within the confines of this building, and I thought it was pretty clear that people preferred two stories, so I’m fine with two story,” said School Committee Member Christine Monaco.
Superintendent Dr. Eric Conti said teachers and school building administrators had told him a two-story building would be easier to manage. “If it were going to be a five, six, seven million dollar difference, that would be something that would weigh on me significantly. But it seems like it’s actually nice in this particular case, we can take money out of the decision.”
Committee members are also weighing where on the site to place the building; the plan is to construct a new school while the existing one remains operational, so the two options available are the northern edge or the southeastern end of the property. The northern site would be placed on the current parking lot to avoid cutting down too many trees, meaning it would be close to the existing building, while the southeastern site has more restrictions due to vernal pools and wetlands.