Poland Board of Education sees vision of future schools

POLAND — The Poland Board of Education met early Saturday to get a look at what Poland schools could look like under a plan that the majority of voters seem to support.

The meeting was attended by school officials, and board members Dr. Larry Dinopoulos, Troy Polis and Larry Warren as well as representatives from GPD Group, who submitted the drawings as concepts. Superintendent Craig Hockenberry opened the retreat by giving a brief look back at the path the district has taken so far.

“The journey started in June,” he said. “We held 97 small group sessions since we started and we started with 57 different combinations on what to do with Poland schools (in the future).”

He said the 57 ideas were narrowed to 12 and then to four. The four ideas were taken to the group sessions and included an all-in-one campus, and new separate schools. The white option, or all grades on one campus, didn’t seem to be what the majority wanted. Hockenberry said most favored having separate schools.

He said the blue option, with three new schools, has garnered the most community support. With that information, GPD Group went to work to come up with drawings on what the three new buildings would look like. It included a new K-5 school at the North Elementary site, a new grade 6 to 8 school at College Street, and a new Seminary High School on the present high school property on Dobbins Avenue.

Representing GPD Group were Mark Salopek and Abby Rainieri, who spoke to the drawings and site maps. She said the drawings are only what could be and not a finished product.

The first building, the K-5 building, would be built on the North Elementary site after that school was demolished. The new school is a one-floor building based on what staff said would be best for the younger children. The new facility would be nearly four times the size of the present school and would have classroom wings.

The second building, or middle school, would be constructed at the College Street property. Rainieri said McKinley would be demolished and the new school would join the existing connector.

“The parking on College Street would remain and it also maintains green space,” she said. “The property could also include an outdoor amphitheater-styled classroom.”

Hockenberry said the design is for grades 6 to 8 only. He said the school now houses the younger classes that total around 800 students.

“We have to have seven buses stage on the street while seven are loading in the bus pickup area (at McKinley and the middle school),” Hockenberry said. “With this proposed plan, the numbers would go down to around 400 for grades 6 to 8. That would mean only one set of seven buses, making dismissal a lot smoother.”

Rainieri said the connector was included as it is the newest section and contains a cafeteria to which the new middle school would connect.

For additional parking, Hockenberry said the school district owns the field on the north side of the American Legion Post. He said it is possible to put a parking lot there, if needed.

Rainieri presented the plans for the high school, which would be a two-story structure to be built between the existing high school and the stadium. She said the design allows for the new building to go up while students use the present high school.

“We were trying not to have an impact on the present facilities,” she said. “The tennis courts would have to be relocated, but the field house would stay.”

She said all three buildings would have a look, including the cupolas, that will fit in with the historic nature of the community.

Hockenberry said Poland Seminary High School would have to maintain its name, but the new middle school and elementary could have new names.

“The board of education and the community could decide what to call them,” he said.

Rainieri said the drawings are just a concept at this point. She said whoever is chosen as architect for the new buildings would likely need a year to come up with the final drawing and they would have a lot of work to do, including the historic aspects.

Dinopoulos and former board member Elinor Zedaker were concerned about the traffic flow around the middle school and McKinley, as well as the Village of Poland.

Warren asked about the historic aspect and if any of the old middle school could be incorporated into the new building. Rainieri said the capstones at the entrance could be used to create a display case inside the building to hold historic items.

Hockenberry said the district needs a backup plan in place if voters say no to a levy to build new schools. He said some major repairs need to be made, including a $500,000 roof at the high school. He added the older buildings also are causing high maintenance bills.

“We’re closing schools because of broken pipes and we are spending a lot on repairs,” he said.


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