Design and traffic study for new school to be discussed

Courtesy photo/A Dorr & Whittier Architects' artist's rendering shows the first-floor schematic of the new school planned for the Veterans Memorial Elementary School site in Gloucester.

The preliminary design for a new elementary school at the Veterans Memorial Elementary School site has been drawn up. 

On Thursday, Feb. 13, the East Gloucester-Veterans School Building Committee will be updated on the schematic design phase schedule, exterior schematic design and building massing, and the interior schematic design floor plan of the new elementary school.  

"The architects have been working on the best layout," Building Committee and School Committee Vice Chair Kathleen Clancy said about the preliminary design. 

The meeting will give the Building Committee a chance to react to the presented design and discuss the pros and cons, she continued.

In October 2019, the School Building Community selected the Veterans Elementary campus from an initial list of nine sites to be the location of the city's newest elementary school. 

The new elementary school, projected to open in fall 2023, will combine the existing Veterans Memorial and East Gloucester elementary schools. 

In the midst of public forums and delayed votes on a request for relief from Article 97 in the state Constitution allowing use of the site, the School and Building Committee are reviewing what will be if all things go forward with construction at the Webster Street address. 

There will also be a preliminary report on a traffic study of the area at Thursday's meeting. 

"We are all going to be interested to discuss the results entailed in the traffic study and how we can manage circulation at that site," Clancy said. 

School Committee member Melissa Joy Teixeira Prince said she hopes "that they put forward a design that is strong and provides all the safety elements to protect our kids yet is cost effective and matches the traditional heritage of our community."

She announced the preliminary design on her Facebook page late Monday afternoon. 

"Note the many parking spaces and the area for drop off and pick up which is NOT on the public street. Kids will be protected and have great play spaces on the back area of the site," Teixeira Prince wrote. 

Her post received more than 300 comments in less than 48 hours, ranging from ecstatic support to detailed criticism of the design. 

While some community members raved about the expanded parking and new building, others are concerned about the legacy of a potentially demolished ballfield and what the estimated increase in their tax bills will be for homeowners.

Vanessa Michalak of Gloucester posted on Facebook her desire for smaller schools for the sake of less congestion on Webster Street.

"If you have never driven up Webster Street at 3 p.m. you ought to just to personally experience the traffic and congestion that already exists," Michalak wrote.

Teixeira Prince has a few concerns of her own.

"I have concerns regarding the direction the Building Committee is going with the design revealed at their last meeting in January," Teixeira Prince said. "We owe it to the taxpayers to keep unnecessary design costs to a minimum while at the same time investing in the educational resources inside the building for teaching and learning."

While the School and Building committees continue to plan for the future, the decision will ultimately be in the hands of residents as they go to the ballots this fall to vote on a debt exclusion override for the funding of the building. 

Staff writer Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-675-2705 or tbradford@northofboston.com.