Final year for Allen Brook trailers (8/27/09)

DRB approves plan to remove temporary classrooms

Aug. 27, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

After a year of frustration, debate and various master plans, the fate of the Allen Brook School modular classrooms has finally been decided.


    File photo
Temporary classrooms at Allen Brook School, which are housed in trailers pictured above, will be removed after the upcoming school year.

In a unanimous vote Tuesday night, the Development Review Board approved a final master plan that will ensure the temporary classrooms be removed from the school next August.

“This is the master plan we’ve been waiting for,” board Chairman Kevin McDermott said.

District Principal Walter Nardelli presented the plan to the board, highlighting how the school will shift student populations between Allen Brook and Williston Central School next summer. The configuration changes will make the modular classrooms obsolete, Nardelli said.

As part of the master plan, the Development Review Board extended a temporary building permit for the site. The permit was due to expire in February, but the board agreed to extend it until August 2010 to finish out the school year and to allow for site improvements.

“They wouldn’t want to do this in the middle of the school year,” said Ken Belliveau, Williston’s planning director.

Once the trailers are removed, plans call for returning the site to previous conditions. The ground will be top soiled, seeded and mulched. An existing sidewalk will be extended to improve student access from the school to the bus stop.

The school district hopes to have a buyer for the temporary classrooms before they’re removed next year. Nardelli said Charlotte Central School is working on renovations beginning next year and that town’s School Board has expressed interest in the trailers.

During Tuesday night’s meeting, Nardelli explained how the final configuration option voted on by the Williston School Board in June, called Option A, will allow for the removal of the modular classrooms.

Option A will place pre-kindergarten through second grade students at Allen Brook, while grades three through eight will be at Williston Central. Nardelli told the board the move would reduce the population at Allen Brook from 474 to 385 students. Allen Brook’s capacity without the trailers is 400 students, Nardelli explained.

Williston Central currently has 692 students, Nardelli said. Speaking to the DRB, Nardelli estimated there will be 741 students when Option A takes effect next year. The building’s capacity is 950 students.

But numbers provided by Nardelli at the meeting show there will be 781 students at Williston Central for the 2010-2011 school year. Reached for clarification after the meeting, Nardelli stood by the number of 741, saying that he expected enrollment to decline.

The final student population numbers were “part of the reasoning for Option A,” Nardelli told the board.

Although McDermott questioned the administration’s math after the meeting, he said this master plan will do.

“This is what we’ve been telling them for years,” McDermott said. “Work within the space you have.”

The modular classrooms have a “long history” in Williston, as Belliveau said Tuesday night. Allen Brook students moved into the modular classrooms during the 2002-2003 school year. The classrooms were meant to be a temporary solution for increasing enrollment until another wing of Allen Brook could be built.

As enrollment leveled off and then decreased, the district decided against building an Allen Brook addition. Instead, the Development Review Board granted a second temporary building permit for the classrooms in 2006.

According to the 2006 permit’s conditions of approval, school officials were to return to the board in February 2008 with a master plan of what to do with the site. Administration and School Board members did not meet with the Development Review Board until September of last year.

At previous Development Review Board meetings, members of the board said several times they did not intend to renew a temporary building permit for the classrooms. As a result, the administration formed plans to make the classrooms more permanent, moving them to another location at the school and building a new wing.

As Nardelli told the board Tuesday, Option A ends the debate of the modular classrooms.

“It solves our problems,” he said.