NEWPORT – The current Rogers High School consists of several single story buildings and pods, some of which are connected by long corridors and stretch across the grounds at Wickham Road and Old Fort Road.
Architect Mark Rhoades with SLAM Collaborative Inc., tasked with designing a new high school for the site, announced parishioners Thursday night that they want to compress the high school by going vertically.
The proposed school would be 217,700 square feet, a reduction from the current 238,450 square foot high school. The current high school has “too many doors and too many corridors,” said Rhoades.
The new high school plan unveiled this week shows a four-story block parallel to Wickham Road that will house the academic classrooms and will have two elevators next to the stairwells. A new gymnasium, a cafeteria, a media room, the Block Box Theater and part of the professional and technical rooms are being built in the adjoining two-storey part of the building.
The theater could be divided with a movable soundproof wall and thus converted into two separate rooms. The band could play in one room, the choir practice in the other, and they wouldn’t hear each other, Rhoades said.
The cafeteria and media center would adjoin an open courtyard inside the two-story building, providing more natural light, he said.
The second floor around the gym will have a weight room that the current high school doesn’t have. There would also be a JROTC room, health room, and counseling office on the second floor.
There would be flexible classrooms in the high school that could be customized for different programs such as civil engineering, marine professions, and carpentry. This will be a comprehensive high school where the vocational and technical programs are integrated into the overall layout, emphasized Rhoades.
The life cycle of a modern high school is around the clock, with the school’s facilities open to community organizations and residents, he said. The four-story block could be closed, while the two-story block and amenities could remain open to the public when the school is down, he said.
The latest design is a major change from the previous plan
This new plan is a major change from the conceptual plan discussed in late Junewhen it was proposed to save the current gym and Newport Area Career & Technical Center building. That would have scattered the school layout too widely and required more expensive concrete and more corridor space, Rhoades said.
“We talked about keeping the gym,” he said. “That’s not a great idea.”
There are structural problems with the “W-shaped roof,” among a few other problems, he said.
SLAM is designing a school with open spaces and large interior windows so that students can see what their classmates are doing. Rhodes cited the colonial kitchen, where culinary students prepare meals for the public. One should see that, he said.
The colonial kitchen would have a terrace overlooking the new main sports field, which will be roughly where the current sports field is now.
Due to the building compression, there will be enough free space to build an additional sports field near the current cell phone tower, Rhoades said.
The interiors in the new school will be adaptable to accommodate changing educational needs for the next 50 years and beyond, he said.
The two dozen people in attendance at the community meeting applauded after Rhoades presented the plan. One woman said she was “depressed” by previous plans, but not this one.
The new Rogers High School will be energy efficient
The new school will be designed to be energy efficient, with enough roof space and structural capacity and wiring to install solar panels to meet all of the school’s energy needs.
“You’d need extra dollars for the solar panels,” said Rhoades.
SLAM is also overseeing a feasibility study to see if 140 geothermal wells can be used to heat and cool the building. The ground temperature in the depths is 52 to 55 degrees all year round, which gives a geothermal system a head start at any time of the year.
Paying for geothermal energy would also require additional funding.
The schematic design of the building will take until the end of September, and then design development will take another three or four months, Rhodes said. The construction documents will be drawn up in early 2022.
Providence-based Gilbane Inc. has the site management contract and will be subcontracting much of the project.
When construction began in late winter or spring 2022, the auditorium and gym would be demolished to make way for the new high school, which is due to open in September 2024.
Keeping costs down is very important to the SLAM architects, including Catherine Ellithorpe, the project manager, and Joseph DeSanti of Downes Construction Co., the “owner project manager” who oversees school projects on behalf of the city and school department.
The school department’s administrators, led by headmistress Colleen Burns Jermain, school committee members Rebecca Bolan and Louisa Boatwright who jointly lead the school’s 22-person school building committee, owner’s representative, Gilbane and the SLAM design team, discuss the project daily, Rhoades said
Automobile and cosmetic rooms could be shortened
There is a strong desire in the community to keep the automotive and cosmetic programs, but these career programs are no longer recognized by the Rhode Island Department of Education.
That could change soon, school officials say, as people in the auto repair industry say there is an ongoing need for trained auto technicians who can earn salaries on the order of $ 100,000.
There are not enough funds in the school loan approved by the voters for the automotive and cosmetics sectors or for the administrative offices of the school department that are now planned. These three rooms will be included in the design as “add an alternative”, ie they will be built when the city can raise the necessary funds through grants or private donors.
The priority among these three needs will be the automotive industry first, cosmetics second, and administrative offices third, Superintendent Jermain said at the meeting.
“Maybe I work from a Winnebago,” she said.
Voters approved a $ 106.33 million school loan on November 3, 2020 to fund two school projects costing $ 7,472,300, according to a notification letter sent by SBA school construction coordinator Joseph da Silva in early May 2020 sent.
That approved assignment from RIDE was for a new 169,875 square foot high school that, according to the community and professional planners, just isn’t big enough for the high school programming the community wants.