SOUTH KINGSTOWN —The School Building Committee was able to get a first glimpse of what a new high school might look like if the district were to relocate to the Curtis Corner site.
The plans presented on Wednesday morning propose a sizable addition to Curtis Corner Middle School, as well as some renovations and repurposing of some existing spaces.
The existing 92,691 square-foot structure would more than double in size, according to RGB Associate Principal Tracy Donnelly, though part of the 94,584 square feet will include space for administration.
The reimagined space will be built out, keeping the structure at one level —but will relocate the main entrance into the new addition. Access to the school, if these plans should ever come to fruition, would be modified.
Though bus parking will remain in the same space, parking for teachers and students will be relocated. Widening the existing access roads that are there, as well as building another access road to the campus from South Road, make this project a viable option, according to Traffic Engineer Paul Bannon.
The official traffic report has not been fully completed yet, Bannon said, but based on the numbers they’ve collected so far and the knowledge that two more grades of students will be coming and going from the school each day, he anticipates a volume of 400 cars each day.
Today, Curtis Corner Middle School sees about 130 cars from the east and 100 cars from the west, Bannon said.
Having a second access point on South Road will help to distribute traffic, he said. The current morning traffic before the start of a school day is an anomaly that can’t be avoided anywhere, he said, but he does not see the project worsening conditions —something members of the school committee and the general public had been concerned about since the onset of the study.
With an additional lot, there would be space for nearly 500 parking spots.
One item of concern, raised by Director of Administrative Services Aimee Reiner, though, was that this lot could affect the disc golf course.
Within the existing building, some of the larger spaces would continue to function under their intended use — such as the cafeteria and kitchen space. Other parts of the building would be converted to something else entirely, though, according to Donnelly.
The current gymnasium would be converted into a media center library. This configuration would not only allow for an improved gymnasium but new locker rooms and adjacent physical education studios. In this location, Donnelly noted, the gymnasium would also be closer to the athletic fields and easier for students to access.
The previous addition that had been put on Curtis Corner Middle School, which currently serves as the science wing, would become the school’s art, theater, band and music wing. The new science wing would then be relocated into the new addition.
Although numbers will not be available until next week, the plans as presented were well received.
Members of the building committee and the audience clapped when community member Doral Beasley said he was “actually liking this.”
School Committee Member Emily Cummiskey was also excited about the possibility of this new addition at Curtis Corner. She thanked RGB Architects for the work they’d put into the potential project.
“I feel like you delivered exactly what we were looking for,” Cummiskey said.
If the district were to have the option of spending between $50 million or $60 million on renovating the Columbia Street location or building out an addition to Curtis Corner, the choice was obvious in Cummiskey’s eyes.
“I seriously hope we’re not going to be let down on this,” she said in reference to the total cost estimate. “The direction was to bring us a plan for a high school at Curtis Corner with a brand new gymnasium and a brand new auditorium — that supports our amazing athletics programs and our amazing art and music and theater production program —we asked them to bring us a rendering that’s the same amount of money that we’re putting into Columbia Street right now.”
“I really, really hope, as a community member, as a school committee member, that when the community hears what the numbers are next week, that they fit into that budget,” she added.
If they can deliver this, Cummiskey said, the trust of the community would soar.
When evaluating options, the school committee had identified four additional benefits of relocating the high school to Curtis Corner Road, according to the proposed capital improvement program report that was released last month.
The first was that the site would be more centrally located than the current high school since it’s serviced by two north-south arterial roads. The second is that “co-locating student athletic programs with the town’s playing fields would improve program administration and eliminate the need for students to travel to the fields.”
Co-locating school administration with the largest school program in town could also increase collaboration between teaching staff and administrators, something that was seen as another possible benefit.
The fourth benefit the school committee identified with relocating was that “the current ‘flexible’ design of the existing Curtis Corner Middle School building would allow for the reconfiguration of the interior space.”