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Educators to Advocate for Woodland School Replacement

The Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the project Tuesday.

Woodland Elementary School, height diagram. Credit: contributed.
Woodland Elementary School, height diagram. Credit: contributed.  Download PDF 
Milford Public Schools officials and school advocates have stepped up efforts to persuade Milford Town Meeting members, and residents, that a replacement school for Woodland Elementary School is a necessity.

Approval of the $60.9 million project will go to a Town Meeting vote Feb. 10. Designed to state standards, the project could qualify for 60 percent state funding. The town would cover the remainder, expected to be $34 million. 

The school will house the third, fourth and fifth grades when completed, and include 132,000-square-feet of space, a full-sized gymnasium, a fine arts corridor and a cafe-torium with a stage that would allow students to perform at the school. Separated bus loops and parent drop-offs would be created, to increase safety.

The Milford Planning Board tonight is expected to hold a public hearing on a request for a zoning change submitted by the Woodland Building Committee. This would allow the new school to exceed the current height restriction of 35 feet for buildings in a residential zone. The current flat-roof design calls for a maximum height of 42 feet for the central academic building, with two wings having roof elevations of 28 to 32 feet, according to the district. [See attached illustration]

The design changed after several homeowners who live near the existing school filed appeals of the Milford Zoning Board of Appeals approval of an earlier design, which had featured a pitched roof system with greater heights.

School architects also have repositioned the school on the site, to increase the distance from adjacent residential properties to within the allowed setback.

As part of a campaign to persuade residents that the new Woodland school is a necessity, school officials will host an open house at the school on Wednesday night, featuring tours of the building and an opportunity to speak with employees who work there. The project has been handled by the Woodland Building Committee, an appointed panel that includes school representatives and residents with construction experience. It is led by Aldo Cecchi.

In a letter to residents, Cecchi said the committee considered several locations, and several alternatives to building a new school. "Since the new construction would be less costly and provide less disruption of the existing school than the renovation [or] addition option, the building committee concluded that new construction on the Woodland site, while students are still using the existing building, was the best option," he wrote. "Once the new school has been built students will be moved to the new facility and the existing Woodland school will be safely demolished."

The school system is also engaging people on social media, and recently posted a video to its Facebook site, demonstrating existing conditions inside the elementary school.

The video highlights the crowded cafeteria, the congested bus loop, and the limitations of its "open concept" classroom construction. Woodland was built in the 1970s, during a phase of American education in which open concept schools — which feature classrooms without fixed walls — were a construction trend. In the decades since, school systems have abandoned these models and returned to traditional classroom designs.

The video is narrated by Woodland Principal Craig Consigli, who said the open concept construction has proven to be inefficient and distracting for students and teachers.

"The deign for the new Woodland School does not use an experimental classroom model," he states, in the voice over. "Rather, the new building goes back to the tried and true one classroom-per teacher model that we use in our other long lasting school buidlings, like Memorial and Stacy Middle School."

The video is expected to be presented in the Feb. 10 Special Town Meeting, at which time Town Meeting members will be asked to approve two articles related to the school construction project. One asks members to approve a zoning change that will allow the school, as well as all public schools in the future, to exceed the current height restriction on buildings in residential zones. A second article seeks authority to raise funds for the local share of the construction.
Cappuccino January 28, 2014 at 12:38 PM
Did you know that only 50% of the Woodland classrooms are "open style", the remainder are conventional classrooms? The "open style" rooms were designed from the beginning to be reconfigured into conventional classrooms if the educational plan were to change.
Cappuccino January 28, 2014 at 12:42 PM
Did you know the new plan calls for the abandonment of the middle school east (former St. Mary's High School). No plans for using all those empty classrooms once that happens.
Cappuccino January 28, 2014 at 04:21 PM
Did you know if we reverted to the "community" school model, educators would have more flexibility to place students thereby easing overcrowding. There would be more walking/exercise, fewer gas gobbling cars & busses & less noxious carcinogenic fumes for our children to breathe? This would ease traffic jams and parking frustrations.
Marie Palomares January 28, 2014 at 05:49 PM
Interesting how you see this helping traffic jams. Ever try to drop or pick up your kid at Stacy Middle? That is quite the nightmare especially in the winter. No parking spaces, no car loops and well thanks to Police Chief O'Laughlin last year implementing that crossing guards not direct traffic. Fun fun. NOT!
Marie Palomares January 28, 2014 at 06:00 PM
Then let's think about the over kill thrills of the school development. Amphitheater, new soccer field, art hallways, open learning centers, cafetorium, and a wellness center, oh we are talking about all these thrills for 3rd-5th graders. Come On are we serious??? Why aren't we hearing reasonable things like a larger school for housing our children, but seriously talking about spending money on Educational items that better improve the entire Milford school district? Am I the only one blind at this over glorified playroom for our kids?
Cappuccino January 28, 2014 at 06:03 PM
Did you know more walkers means less traffic & fewer traffic jams. Unfortunately schools are not designed to handle the traffic and parking they produce. VERY dangerous! Few or no police at schools to take charge... VERY dangerous! Traffic signs at schools not enforced... VERY dangerous! Try explaining this to our administrators...VERY frustrating.
Cappuccino January 29, 2014 at 08:15 AM
Did you know Woodland was originally designed to have a student population of 800. There are presently 630 students at the school. Administration has even added a portable classroom.. Administration reconfigured the school from original design, causing much of the crowding.
kalman berke January 29, 2014 at 11:33 AM
Oh, how difficult to be a helicopter parent. Try walking home from school. Less obesity and some learning about what is outside an artificial container might be good for them. Some are raising products and not humans.
Cappuccino January 29, 2014 at 12:29 PM
Kalman Berke is very observant.
Cappuccino January 29, 2014 at 04:24 PM
Density in upper Congress-North Vine Street is at its maximum. There's Sherwood, Rolling Green and Groves apartment complexes built in a single family RB zone. The planning board members should visit Woodland at 2:30--2:45 on a snowy afternoon with parents double parked on both sides of the street, backing out of neighbors driveways into oncoming traffic and the crossing students. (Those students are subjected to inhaling carcinogenic exhaust from congested traffic.) Buses can't get in and fire trucks/emergency vehicles were blocked from traveling during an emergency a couple of months ago. The planning board's first charge should be safety. There are already over 600 students at the school now. A third floor allows for 300 MORE students! That's students, teachers, support staff, service trucks, parents, etc. The board would disallow a shopping mall doing this. Are our students any less precious!

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