Public weighs in on Alton Central conceptual plans




June 29, 2011
ALTON — The Alton Central Buildings and Grounds Committee hosted a third forum on the conceptual designs for renovations at Alton Central School on Wednesday, June 15, and it was well attended and members of public voiced questions about the plans.

Chip Krause of CMK Architects answered questions and welcomed suggestions to add or subtract from the conceptual design.

Krause explained that New England School Development Council estimated that the school population would reach 800 students in 10 years, and this estimate is cut in half, meaning the projection of 800 students would be reached in 15 to 20 years.

Krause explained that in addition to the new classrooms and a new gymnasium, new ceilings, new windows and a completely new HVAC system would be installed and added to existing building.

Krause talked about the portion of renovation that will add three floors, with the third floor being unfinished. This third floor could be used for additional classroom space in the future but will include wiring, lighting and other utilities.

Krause talked about turning the current gym into a new cafeteria, which would allow the number of lunches to be trimmed. Currently, the first lunch is served to the students at around 10:45 a.m. due to the limited size of the cafeteria.

Krause said that fields would re-graded as part of renovations. Concern was raised about parking for events at the new gymnasium, and Krause agreed that this is an issue.

With the new design, people would need to park at the back of property near the ball fields and walk over to the gym.

A question was raised about building a new building as opposed to renovating the current building, and Krause said the project would probably cost 40 to 50 percent more to build new as opposed to the conceptual renovation.

A question was raised about a state regulation requiring a certain amount of land per student. Superintendent Kathy Holt said this standard has been changed and wouldn't effect the proposed renovation.

Krause was questioned about a time line to complete the project. He said that phases would need to be implemented but isn't sure of a detailed plan.

"You can accomplish a lot during one summer, but you can't accomplish the whole thing," Krause said.

A question was raised about adding a card-key system in the interim to make ACS more secure.

Krause said this could be done, but it was pointed out that students coming from the modular building need to be able to enter the building freely.

Principal Bonnie Jean Kuras said the school board would look into it and could urged members of the public to bring it forward during budget discussions next year.

Krause talked about geothermal heating and the possible cost savings it could bring to ACS. Krause talked about the new building at Kingswood and said that they are saving about 45 percent of the normal energy cost by using geothermal heating.

Geothermal heating has a high upfront cost, but money can be recouped by the reduction in energy costs.

A suggestion was made to look at the maximum class size at ACS to allow more students into each classroom and reduce the number of classrooms.

Holt said the school board could look at the class size, but she pointed out that the policy class size has been the same since 1981.

Members of audience urged the cost estimate of the project to include chairs, desks and other equipment that would be needed in each classroom.

Holt said that no additional staff would be added after the renovation is completed, as staff in the modular trailers would move into the additional classroom space on the second floor.

The Buildings and Grounds Committee talked about getting the word out to voters of the town to support this renovation.

Suggestions were made to send copies of the conceptual plans through the school newsletter.

Kuras wanted to be sure that materials wouldn't be sent through the students directly from the teachers.

It was pointed out that the bond on Prospect Mountain High School is set to finish in August 2012.

Additional forums will be held on the conceptual design, and Krause will be working on a cost estimate in near future.

Tim Croes can be reached at tcroes@salmonpress.com or 569-3126

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