Kent Schools projects including new gymnasium and high school parking plans move forward

Kent City Schools planned improvements to Theodore Roosevelt High School and Walls Elementary School has taken a significant step forward this week.

Plans for a new high school traffic and parking plan, a new country house at the stadium, a new high school competition gymnasium, and an addition of two classrooms at Wall Elementary School have received conditional use and approval of the city planning site plan. and Zoning Commission.

Kent Superintendent George Joseph said the high school upgrades and addition to Walls Elementary School are slated for next summer and are part of a $ 25 million plan to upgrade the district facilities.

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Work on next summer’s improvements will cost around $ 15 million to $ 16 million and will be funded by a recently passed bond issue, allowing the neighborhood to complete building improvements over the next two years, according to Joseph.

“It’s great that our community has backed a new tax bond issue to make all of this happen,” he said.

In addition, the district will spend around $ 8-9 million this summer on new air conditioning in buildings that don’t have it, including bipolar ionization which Joseph says helps provide healthier air, installs a new access system in all buildings except the upper school (which has already installed it), redevelop the halls of several schools, install grass on the high school football field and build a ramp accessible to people with disabilities at Davey Elementary School.

Much of the discussion at the Planning Commission meeting revolved around the high school traffic plan, which Joseph said is “a matter of safety.”

“We did an investigation, and currently the student parking lot is separated from Roosevelt by Roosevelt Drive,” he said, adding that students who needed to walk across the busy driveway had been around for years. an accident waiting to happen ”.

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Bill Dunegan, the technical engineer for the project, said he agreed the current layout was not secure.

“People are zooming in here a bit,” he said. “One of the goals was to get this road to the other side of the parking lot.”

The new plan slides the student parking lot closer to the entrance to the building, and Roosevelt Drive winds to the left as motorists enter the parking lot. Parking for students, staff and visitors is all in one area closer to the school.

Parents dropping off students will take a right turn as they approach the lot and walk up to the building. The bus drop-off will be along the promenade in front of the school, parallel to Route 43.

There will also be a large field on the north side of the high school, which Joseph says could be open to students, especially athletes who could use the new competitive gymnasium after school anyway.

“We were hoping that our teachers could park there, but we could provide spaces for the students there,” he said.

In total, there are 699 parking spaces at the site, including the stadium parking lot, and a potential total of 1,327 spaces available at special events if an agreement is finalized with Davey Tree Expert Co. to use part of it. its parking lot, according to Brad of ThenDesign Architecture. Gellert.

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“I think we have increased the parking by around 100 spaces for daily use,” he added.

The planned new country house would be located at the southern end of the stadium and would include changing rooms for homes and visitors, a concession area, coaches offices, showers and a coaches office, according to plans.

Although the Kent Architecture Review Board asked the district to include windows on the long south side of the building, the Planning Commission approved the design without them.

“I think for the privacy in the washrooms and lockers, I agree with the south elevation without windows,” said Amanda Edwards, a member of the Planning Commission. “I think the project is great. I think the school needs it, and I think the community needs it.

The addition of a two-classroom wing at Walls Elementary School was approved with little discussion by the commission.

Joseph said its construction would allow the district to get rid of two temporary modular classrooms that the district rents. Another modular building with two more classrooms will remain, he added.

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“We have another portable unit that will stay because we don’t have the money to add four classrooms at this point,” he said.

A playground should be moved during construction, according to Gellert.

Commission President Chris Clevenger-Morris said that as a former neighbor of the primary school he would be happy to see one of the modular units go.

“I think the plan is superb,” he said. “I am delighted to see this modular unit disappear. It’s an improvement in security and I think it will be a better experience overall for the students.

Reporter Bob Gaetjens can be reached at 330-541-9440, [email protected] or @bobgaetjens_rc.

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