Plans Unveiled For Ray School

An artist's rendering shows a reconfigured parking lot that is part of the proposed $5.4 million bond to update the Ray School in Hanover. (Courtesy Banwell Architects)

An artist's rendering shows a reconfigured parking lot that is part of the proposed $5.4 million bond to update the Ray School in Hanover. (Courtesy Banwell Architects)

Hanover — Renovations and additions to the Ray Elementary School would cost nearly $5.4 million under an evolving plan that Hanover school officials unveiled last week.

After principal Matt Laramie on Wednesday night led several residents on a public tour of the 43-year-old school for Hanover pupils in kindergarten through grade 5, architects and engineers outlined plans that include a new kindergarten classroom, three new classrooms for elementary grades, a range of new systems for heating, ventilation, and electricity, new roofing with reinforced insulation, upgrades to meet requirements helping disabled students and staff and visitors, and a sweeping reconfiguration of the driveway and parking system.

“These are the broad brush strokes right now,” Hanover School Board member Jona Roberts, chairman of the building committee, said during the hearing.

The School Board will continue to hold hearings over the winter, before deciding whether to ask voters in March to approve a bond issue that the district would start repaying in 2015-2016.

“The big issue in front of us is to tap into where the public appetite is to support the project,” School Board chairman Kevin Cotter said. “We’re in the cloud right now.”

If the project comes to a vote and townspeople give the go-ahead, the school district would start by removing two portable classrooms on the grounds of the school off Reservoir Road and building two of the new classrooms during the summer of 2014.

The summer of 2015 would see the bulk of the work, including reconfiguration of the site — the current estimate adds up to almost $1.3 million — as well as renovation of the roofing system, and replacement of almost all exterior doors and windows, said Jeremiah Goulet of Banwell Architects, lead designer for the $50,000 study that Hanover voters commissioned last March at Town Meeting.

Michael Davey, a consultant on heating systems for Energy Efficient Investments, said that the school district might want to consider converting the Ray School’s existing, five-year-old oil-fired boilers to propane for a year before deciding whether to install wood-pellet-fired boilers or stay with propane.

“The payback (on the savings from converting to wood pellets) is 18 to 19 years versus single-digit years to go to propane,” Davey said.

The proposal to move the driveway to the west end of the school grounds — sending buses and parents’ cars along different routes to drop off students — stirred the most public objections at the hearing.

After Charlie Hirshberg of CLD Engineering’s White River Junction office described the new traffic pattern as a way “to maintain a safe flow” of traffic, several residents insisted that the school should be discouraging parents from dropping off children, and encouraging more children to walk and bicycle to school.

“I wonder what that communicates to children and the community,” resident Lyn Miller said of the site changes, adding that while the need to renovate the building itself “just screams out, our concern is with the physical landscaping, the exterior, the invitation to the building.”

While agreeing that “we do need to take another look” at ways to encourage children to bike and walk to and from school, Laramie said that current conditions and habits make some version of the new traffic pattern essential to establish, for the sake of safety throughout the day. He advised skeptics to visit the school during special occasions, such as the winter concert the school hosted at mid-morning the next day, when cars by the dozens would park on Reservoir Road.

“Our community supports our events,” Laramie said, “and it’s mayhem.”

Roberts described the traffic-pattern in the site plan as “a much safer situation than we currently have,” before adding, “We have a long laundry list of what needs to be accomplished. This can be fine-tuned” if and when voters approve the general concept.