Proposed Changes to Elementary School Project Worry Neighbors, Committee

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The plan for Cunniff School would not have space for a tee ball field, after the building is moved left to provide more outdoor space along the right side. The School Building Committee discussed the plans on April 4.

Architects presented proposed changes for the new buildings at the Cunniff and Hosmer schools, which left some concerns, particularly with the outdoor space at Cunniff.

Scott Dunlap from Ai3 Architects presented the plans at last week’s School Building Committee meeting.

Cunniff School

One major change would move the location of the proposed new Cunniff School building. Dunlap shoed it moving toward the middle of the property, rather than having it right against the Ridgelawn Cemetery property.

“There are a lot of activities that happen along this side of the building that important to the school functioning,” Dunlap said. “And just including 75 feet between the property line and the building we can incorporate those.”

The widened area would have space for a playground, outdoor play space and a garden, according to Dunlap.

School Committee member Lindsay Mosca noticed something that was missing from previous plans.

“The tee ball field is gone,” Mosca said. “It is used daily by the baseball program in the spring and summer.”

Neighbor Curtis Whitney also worried about the losing the field.

“It seemed to be more effective when you have a small ball field.” Whitney said. “That was one of the major issues for the neighbors at the meeting in November: protecting the outdoor space for the children. As neighbor, we see children on the ball field all the time, year round.”

One feature that would be included in the design is a hardtop half-court basketball area, Dunlap said. In prior designs it would have shared space on the parking lot, but this proposal would have a dedicated space for basketball.

Hosmer School

A change to the plans for the new building at Hosmer School would remove the atrium in the center of the building and create an outdoor learning area.

The biggest change for the Hosmer School proposal would be right in the middle of the building. The first proposal called for a three-story atrium at the center of the new school, but Dunlap said he and his staff had second thoughts after speaking with teachers and administration.

“There was a lot of concern about this space not being utilized, if enclosed, during the day,” Dunlap said. “Any activity may disrupt classrooms surrounding that area.”

Getting natural light to classrooms facing the atrium would be a challenge, he added. Plus, the zoning codes for an atrium trigger expensive additions, such as a smoke evacuation system, and the windows would not be able to open as wide.

Now the space will be used for an outdoor learning area, Dunlap said.

The building, which is shaped like a “V” on its side, would have two wings. On the ground floor, the elementary school would be on one side and the preschool would be on the other. This allows for separate entrances, Dunlap said.

The wings will be connected on the second floor by a walkway.

Some of the School Building Committee members worried about the placement of the dumpsters on the site, which sits next to the Brigham House (the former East Junior High School). School Committee Chair John Portz also worried about where they would go in relation to the entrance to the gym.

“The entrance to the gym is on Concord Road, but the primary parking area and driveway on the other side,” Portz said. “Figuring out where the dumpsters, and all that, go and how you connect though that space is still a bit of a challenge.”

Some of the features in the space has been shifted around at Hosmer, too. A playground, now located between the school and playing fields, would move to the outdoor space created in the area vacated when the old school is demolished, Dunlap said.

The playing fields will be smaller, but will still have space for a varsity softball field in the corner near the Brigham House, and a junior varsity softball field in the opposite corner, near Mt. Auburn Street.

The designs have not been approved, and will continue to be discussed by the School Building Committee.

The next meeting will be on April 25 at 6 p.m. in Town Hall, where the committee is expected to see details of what the outside of the schools will look like. There will also be meetings on May 7 and May 9. The first meeting will include interviews for the elementary school project owner’s project manager, and the second will be a regular committee meeting.

4 thoughts on “Proposed Changes to Elementary School Project Worry Neighbors, Committee

  1. I think it would be a real disservice to the families and kids of this own if the baseball field behind the Cunniff was eliminated. Many kids grew up having fun playing in that field either as a town sports ballplayer or just as a safe neighborhood place to play. It’s certainly should be considered a town gem and not to be easily given up. Once it’s gone it can never be brought back.

  2. Losing the soccer field at the Hosmer would have a major negative impact on the soccer programs at all levels in Watertown. The plans, as presented here suggested that would be the case.

    • The town will just put blame the residents like they did before when the rat problem was bad due to the street and sidewalk renovations at the Hosmer last summer.
      Can you believe that? It will be 10 times worse with this new project.

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