Published in the May 2, 2017 edition.
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — The plan to expand and renovate the Walton School on Davidson Road will go forward after neighborhood residents and supporters turned out in force at Town Meeting last night to support the $6 million project. At 9:20 p.m. after the completion of Article 1, Elm Street’s Daniel Lieber made a motion to take up Article 12, the Walton project, out of order. With all of the Walton supporters in attendance, Lieber’s motion easily achieved the two-thirds majority needed to take the article out of order.
After Permanent Building Committee Chairman Joseph Bertrand made the motion under Article 12, School Superintendent Dr. Kim Smith discussed the arguments in favor of the Walton project, which she said would address space needs and bring kindergarten back to the neighborhood school.
Calling the Walton, “a treasure of a neighborhood school,” Smith said that the work proposed under Article 12 would solve the space and programming issues at the school. A pre-manufactured permanent steel building would replace the modular classrooms presently on the site and be used as a combination gymnasium/cafeteria/auditorium. This added space would allow a reconfiguration of the space in the existing school. Smith noted that two kindergarten classes would be added so that those pupils would no longer have to be bussed to the Woodville. A new library/media center would be created, bringing equity with other elementary schools. A new main entrance would be created to increase security at the school, Smith added, and a small food service kitchen would be created, eliminating the need to use the hallway to store racks of lunch trays.
Bertrand reviewed the history of the Walton proposal and design, noting that three forums had been held for the Walton parents, the public and school staff to provide input. He observed that some of the neighbors were very concerned about parking and said that the Permanent Building Committee was looking at some possible solutions. Bertrand then introduced Chris Blessen of Tappe Architects (the same firm that designed the Galvin Middle School) to talk about some of the design details.
Blessen said that the plan would address the desire to bring kindergarten back to the Walton School and take care of other problems resulting from a current shortage of space at the school, including the need for rooms to serve multiple purposes resulting in lost instructional time during transitions.
Blessen said that the plan would also relocate the main entrance of the school and improve security.
The design, Blessen said, would create a dedicated library space and art space in the current building, freeing up a classroom. In addition, the proposal would demolish the modular classrooms on the site and replace them with a pre-engineered metal building that is structurally separated from the existing building. This addition would create a new gymnasium/cafeteria, kitchen, art classroom and bathrooms along with storage space.
There will be some additional reconfiguration of the existing school building that would create a proper special education space and two kindergarten rooms to go along with the grade 1-4 classrooms.
Bertrand said that the proposed design would solve “90 to 99 percent” of the issues at the school related to space needs. He said that the core project would cost about $5.7 million. He said that the boilers and other mechanical equipment at the school were approaching the end of their life expectancy and that by adding boilers, HVAC controls, vents, a new fire alarm system and fire sprinkler system, it would bring the cost to $6 million.
Finance Committee Chairman Gerard Leeman said that the FinCom supported Article 12.
While the vote in favor of Article 12 was clearly well in excess of the two-thirds required, it had to be counted because there will be bonds issued to borrow the money. The final vote was 340 in favor and 7 opposed.
Immediately following the vote on Article 12, a large number of those in attendance filed out of the auditorium.