As the school year is about to begin, work is proceeding to upgrade the grounds at Union Street School and repair the supports for the glass bridge at Riverside Middle School.
“I went by Union Street, and it looks much better than it did two weeks ago,” Springfield School Board chair Ed Caron said.
Cramped parking has plagued Union Street for years, not helped by the presence of two houses next to it, at 33 and 47 Union Street, respectively. Two years ago, the voters approved a proposal to buy and demolish 47 Union Street, and then granted permission to do the same at number 33. The previous owner donated the property to the school.
“We’ve cleared out most of the brush” at number 33, chief financial officer Rick Pembroke told the board. “We still have to fill in the hole where the foundation was, and then bring in some topsoil.”
Pembroke said there was now enough land to greatly expand parking.
“I’ve looked at the property, and there is a lower plateau which practically begs to become a parking lot,” he said. “Based on Crown Point Excavation's report, the cost may exceed the $15,000 estimate. We should combine those projects. Based on just my eyeball, we can get 50 spots.”
Pembroke also said that there was stormwater flowing underneath the school’s current parking lot. Stormwater is also a problem at the Riverside Middle School.
According to Superintendent Zach McLaughlin, the project’s original intent was to give greater access to the middle school’s All-4-One early morning and after-school care program. Speaking after the meeting, McLaughlin said they found a lot more.
“The project included a small courtyard,” McLaughlin said. “There’s a glass bridge connecting the school’s buildings, and we found that the supports were in tougher shape than we thought. After we shored up the supports, we found drainage issues. The roof drains were getting backed up.”
Dealing with that raised the possibility of losing some shade trees, he added, because the stormwater was flowing through their roots.
Later in the meeting, Pembroke said a solution to that problem had been found.
“The best solution is to move the main drain inside the building,” he said. “That will enable us to keep the trees.”
The next school board meeting takes place on Sept. 27.
-- STEPHEN SEITZ (Special to the Eagle Times)