By DAN TOMASELLO
NORTH READING — Sports fans are bracing for a parking crunch at the high school athletic fields this fall when the access road is rebuilt and the old North Reading High School building is razed.
Superintendent of Schools Jon Bernard, High School Principal A.J. Loprete and Buildings and Grounds Supervisor Wayne Hardacker recently met with representatives from Gilbane Construction and owner’s project manager PMA to discuss the preliminary plans for razing the old NRHS, regrading and realigning the access road, and constructing new fields and parking.
The preliminary plans, which still have to be discussed with the Police Department, Fire Department and Parks and Recreation, are going to severely restrict parking.
School Committee Vice Chairman Mel Webster said he has a “serious concern” about the limited parking, which will take place from June 30 to when the project is finished. He noted people will be able to park behind the new secondary schools and the Batchelder School but he said, “We have to be careful with people walking through a construction area.”
While Webster noted the school department may be able to use a shuttle during football games at night, he said a parking crunch could take place when soccer and field hockey games are played at Arthur Kenney Field during afternoons.
“When the sun sets earlier and the games start at 3 p.m. or 3:30 p.m., I don’t know where people are going to be able to park because the Batch is still going to be in session,” said Webster. “We are going to lose all parking before the new parking lot is done.”
“It’s going to be challenging, especially during the fall season,” said Bernard. “There is no question about it.”
Bernard noted he has engaged in discussions with Loprete and Athletic Director Dave Johnson about safety and parking plans.
School Committee member Jerry Venezia said school officials may need to look into using Jersey barriers as part of the pedestrian walkway to keep people away from the demolition area. He also said school officials may need to install signs to let people know they can’t park along the access road. He also said it’s important to prevent people from parking in front of Peabody Court.
School Committee member Cliff Bowers said it’s important for school officials to let contractors know they need to raze the old high school and get the access road completed “fast.”
“By the time school opens, that lower parking lot ought to be in place,” said Bowers.
Webster expressed his support for Bowers’ proposal.
“It’s worth pushing for,” said Webster.
Bernard said he believes Bowers’ proposal is “worth pursuing.” He also noted school officials informed Gilbane and PMA officials North Reading is hosting the Thanksgiving Day game against Lynnfield this year, which he hopes will accelerate the plan.
Once the access road and razing plan is finalized, Bernard said school officials will be informing the public about the finalized plan.
Central office move
Bernard also noted the central office will be relocated from the temporary middle school to North Reading High School for the summer on June 1. The move will take place on May 29.
The superintendent and business offices will be located in media center offices for the summer, while the Pupil Personnel Services office will be located in one of the teacher pods on the second floor.