Officials Delay Hanaford Decision

by | Dec 5, 2023

Above: Hanaford Elementary in December 2023. Photo by Chuck Nadeau

Design work on an add/reno at Hanaford to continue but concerns about capacity persist

Editor’s note: This story was revised and updated at 9:30 p.m. 12/5/23.

During a crowded School Building Committee meeting on Tuesday, Philip Conte, president and CEO of the architecture firm StudioJAED, told officials that an addition and renovation at Hanford would only fit four classes per grade, but demographic data suggests five classes per grade may be necessary.

“Trying to turn the add/reno at Hanaford into a five-track school is not possible,” Conte said. By “track” he meant class, as in five classes per grade.

The project calls for both Frenchtown and Hanaford to house students in grades 1-5, with Meadowbrook turning into a dedicated PK-K center. 

Conte said that a renovation and addition at Hanaford would result in a “very nice four-track school.” He said site limitations, including wetland issues, would make housing five track levels there “too tight,” with small classrooms and no access to communal spaces. 

According to documents provided by StudioJAED, total enrollment in grades 1- 5 in EG will reach 1,007 students in 2028-2029. The information states that a newly constructed Frenchtown would house 550 students, while an addition and renovation at Hanaford would only allow 440 students to attend, bringing total enrollment to 990. According to the firm’s numbers, two new buildings would accommodate 1,100 students, split equally at 550 students per school.

During the meeting, there was a suggestion that adding a second story to Hanaford could provide additional space, which Conte agreed could provide the additional needed space. 

Officials have prioritized the elementary schools throughout this construction project because of overcrowding issues, something School Building Committee Co-Chair Alyson Powell addressed during the meeting.

“We’re saying the problem is we have too many students and not enough places to put them, and we are putting in a design that doesn’t account for the [projected] number of students. . . . ,” she said, expressing frustration. She later called for more demographic work “to make sure that’s not going to come back and be a problem.”

According to information provided by StudioJAED using a Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) construction formula, a new 1-5 grade school would result in a total eligible project reimbursement of $50.5 million which includes both soft and hard costs but does not reflect current market conditions. The renovation and addition would add four classes per grade not five and StudioJAED estimates the hard cost at $500 per square foot of renovation with 25,000 square feet to be renovated at Hanaford and $675 per square foot of addition with 35,000 square foot of addition planned. There is no soft cost or other costs included in the estimate.

Hanaford Decision Coming Later

Derek Osterman, project manager at Colliers told officials to proceed a little longer as if the renovation and addition scheme at Hanaford is the direction they are headed to allow StudioJAED to draw out both options.

Osterman explained that if officials decide against the addition and renovation designs, the new designs of a building at Frenchtown “can be carbon copied” for a new Hanaford structure in the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) Stage II applications. Because this aspect of the application is “about the money only,” certain design elements can change, but the overall concept cannot, according to Osterman. 

However, with both the School Committee and the Town Council having to approve the RIDE Stage II submission before the Feb. 15 deadline, officials will need to stipulate if Hanaford will be an addition and renovation or new build before that date. 

Abutters Concerns

More than 15 members of the public attended the meeting on Tuesday in person and virtually. Many voiced concerns about the construction process regardless of whether officials decide on a new build or addition and renovation at Hanaford.

“I love East Greenwich schools,” said Sarah’s Trace resident Chris Lamendola, noting that his children went to public schools. However, he stated that the proposed construction at various sites during this project would occur “three times closer” than the Cole Middle School construction, which damaged his home.

“We want to be better than we were before,” said Kevin Murphy, co-chair of the School Building Committee. 

During the meeting, officials discussed geotechnical drilling recently completed at Hanaford, Frenchtown, and the high school. A resident who lives near Hanaford said over Zoom they did not receive notification before this testing was to be done. 

According to officials, parents of children in those EG schools were notified, but not all abutters. Supt. Brian Ricca responded in the chat on Zoom, “I will work with the Town Manager to ensure this does not happen again.”

Kurt Matarese, who lives on Jodie Beth Drive near Frenchtown Elementary, asked if officials have considered moving the new proposed Frenchtown building toward the back of the site and if there are privacy concerns if the building is two stories tall, as currently envisioned. 

“I can’t tell you with any great certainty whether [the building] will or won’t move, whether the shape will change or not, but I am quite certain you have basically most of 2024 to provide feedback and be part of the process of that outcome,” said Osterman.

There is no date yet for the next School Building Committee meeting. The School Committee meets Tuesday, Dec. 12, which includes a joint session with the Town Council.

The parking lots of Hanaford Elementary and abutters on Labaron and Westwood drives. Photo by Chuck Nadeau

A design for a addition and renovation at Hanaford presented Dec. 5, 2023.

A design for a new school at Frenchtown, presented at the School Building Committee Dec. 5, 2023.

Hanaford Elementary School, Dec. 2023. Photo by Chuck Nadeau

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Heather Larkin
Heather Larkin
December 6, 2023 10:39 am

Why is the Superintendent not in the room for these meetings?

December 6, 2023 11:47 am
Reply to  Heather Larkin

Hi Heather, Supt. Ricca was present but also commented within the Zoom application for remote attendees.

Renu Englehart
Renu Englehart
December 6, 2023 12:17 pm
Reply to  Heather Larkin

The superintendent was present.

December 6, 2023 12:25 pm

To clarify my comments on the placement of Frenchtown, I proposed moving it closer to the existing building than what is drawn in the current proposal, as that part of the field is at lower elevation by nearly a full story and has a larger tree buffer to the nearby neighborhood. This will mitigate, but not eliminate, a number of concerns including privacy, light pollution, water runoff, building visibility, daily traffic / exhaust / noise, and construction nuisance or damage. There may also be an opportunity to avoid the expense of completely replacing the back field.

It’s unfortunate the size has increased from the 500 students previously shown to the public to 550, as the space is already extremely tight — no other EG school building takes up ~70% of its property width, and parking/queuing would be right on top of property lines unless a front-facing alternative is considered.

I was expecting the committee to at least ask for additional options that incorporate community feedback on building placement before the stage II submission on Feb 15. Even though over 40 neighbors expressed related concerns in a signed letter, and there’s plenty of time for these small changes (essentially just rearranging blocks at this stage), the committee essentially rejected the idea of considering our input now. If there is as much flexibility and iteration in stage 3 as they say, it only underscores that it shouldn’t be a problem to make the starting point one that accounts for reasonable neighborhood input.

December 11, 2023 7:35 am

Once again public comments to this “news website” have been censored and not posted.

It bears notice (and should be remembered during election time!) that our Council and School Committee officials just were handed a $150 MILLION dollar check for their project, despite it being poorly conceived and incomplete (who would have thought our population might grow?!! Who’s could have imagined that having a walkable neighborhood school for our Hill / Harbor families is something that makes our community great?).

Comments from Mr. Osterman that “this is about the money only” are a gut punch. Taxes are high and getting higher. Is the $150 million not enough for Colliers construction?!

Let’s find a respectable construction company that respects and understands many in our community are struggling and being “about the money” is often the most important thing.


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