Worcester School Board Favors New Showell Elementary

Worcester School Board Favors New Showell Elementary
The Worcester County Board of Education’s favored layout option for the new Showell Elementary School is shown. Rendering by Becker Morgan

BERLIN — The Board of Education wants a completely new Showell Elementary School (SES) instead of making major renovation to the existing building.

The board voted unanimously this week to accept the recommendation made by the architecture and engineering firm Becker Morgan Group (BMG) to completely replace the aging SES.

After conducting a feasibility study on SES, BMG came to the board this week with two possible options for addressing issues with the school, which was originally built in 1976.

“It’s well maintained but simply an aging facility,” said Ellis Hammond, BMG representative.

The school’s roof is aged, tile is deteriorating, HVAC is past its life expectancy and, most importantly, SES is over-crowded and is at over 100-percent capacity, according to the state metric.

“In addition, the cafeteria relies on four lunch sittings and also serves as the gymnasium and auditorium,” read the study’s executive summary.

The current building is 52,000 square feet and would see significant expansion under BMG’s Option A, which is a renovation, and a doubling in size under Option B, the replacement. BMG recommended Option B.

Option B allows for students and staff to only make one move during the construction process. The new, larger school would be built on SES property next to the current school. Once completed, students and staff would transfer over and the old school would be demolished so the space can be used for parking. If the board chose instead to renovate the existing building and add expansions with Option A, additional portable classrooms would need to be brought in and relocation would have to take place in stages.

The board agreed with BMG’s recommendation that a completely new school would be the best option. Both choices were similar in projected cost, with renovation expected to come in around $36.8 million while a total replacement would be about $37.4 million.

The fact that the new school could be built next to the existing without as much disturbance for students was a big draw, noted SES Principal Diane Shorts.

“If you’re talking about renovation or re-building, it would be a fear of mine to do the renovation with 3- to 8-year-olds,” she said.

The board will take the study and rebuild recommendation to the County Commissioners later this summer for discussion with the actual project likely within the next three to five years.