Howe School is on its way to open for the 2013-14 school year. Last night, parents, community members, and school staff met at Hiawatha Community School to see the architectural plans for the $8 million Howe renovation, ask questions, and voice concerns.
The Playground Variance
The topic of the evening was the location of the playground. In the current plan, a new playground will be built on the existing playground base—reducing overall budget costs. However, current regulations require that playgrounds be located 20 feet away from the school property line. The current playground base is located adjacent to the property line to the east. For the playground to be installed in the former location, a variance must be obtained.
When asked about the likelihood of variance approval, Councilperson Sandra Colvin-Roy noted that it would most likely not be approved if it could be found that the playground could be built in a location that met the 20 foot regulation. However, no alternate locations appear to be available.
Community members noted that the athletic fields (north end) are heavily relied upon by community sports organizations. The west side of the property is covered by asphalt and will be used for buses, deliveries, and garbage trucks. The front of the building (south end) will be occupied by the underground storm water management system.
Upgrades Planned for School
Paul May, architect at Miller Dunwiddie, emphasized the environmentally-friendly upgrades planned for the school including large underground tanks located in the front lawn to collect rain water and allow it to seep back into the ground, eliminating the need for rain to be collected with sewer water. Additionally, no new hard space will be created. This will keep rain-water runoff at current levels. Current asphalt will be re-done, but current green space will not be covered by asphalt.
As for the building itself, the entrance and classrooms will be made accessible. Also planned is the installation of energy-efficient windows, new entry doors, roof, interior and exterior lighting, air conditioning, lockers, and bike racks. In the classroom, students will find white boards, smart boards, and computer alcoves. There will be a new media center as well as a kitchen and cafeteria.
A Few Neighbor Concerns
During the question period, a few direct neighbors of the school cited problems with people loitering on school grounds, specifically on the recently removed playground and the benches at the school entrance. Architect Paul May stated that new lighting, fencing, sports teams using the fields, and staff at the school early in the morning and late in the evening would help to reduce the appeal of the grounds as a late-night hangout.
What’s next for the project? Clyde Kane, manager of Facility Design and Construction, said that the renovation must receive the following approvals:
- Conditional use permit – for approval to remodel the school.
- Variance – to allow the new playground to be built on the site of the former playground. The public hearing for the variance approval is scheduled for October 1, 2012.
Plans for Howe School
Howe School will be a partner school with Hiawatha Community School. Hiawatha will teach grades K-2, and Howe will teach grades 3-5. At this time, the plans will provide three 3rd grade classrooms, two 4th grade classrooms, and two 5th grade classrooms. The school expects to have 150-180 students the first year, with increasing numbers the following years.