2014-10-16 / Front Page

Triplett Future Reimagined

By Barry Bridges

Members of the Newport School Committee recently received a presentation from Northeast Collaborative Architects outlining the firm’s vision of how the former Triplett School on Broadway could be redesigned to be the home of Newport’s growing preschool and Head Start programs.

Architects Glenn Gardiner, Daniel Kwasniewski, and Daniel Weston took the lead in reviewing gleaming renderings of a renovated version of the now-vacant 1960s-era facility at the committee’s monthly meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 14.

Preschool and Head Start are currently in leased classrooms at the former Kennedy School in Middletown; but Newport is looking for long-term space solutions to house a burgeoning student population. Pell Elementary is at capacity.

Grant funds were used to commission the Triplett feasibility study undertaken by Northeast Collaborative, with no monies expended from the district’s budget.

Gardiner told school leaders that the building itself is structurally sound and “redeemable,” but that a substantial amount of work would be required to bring it to contemporary standards. A new roof tops the priority list. Additionally, most of the floors have asbestos tiles which would need to be pulled out, and single layer glass windows would need to be brought to code.

Although an entirely new structure and a partial renovation were considered as alternatives, Gardiner was confident that full renovations were the most costeffective in meeting the needs of the school district. The design calls for eight classrooms on the main level for preschool students, while Head Start would occupy four on the lower level. Each class would have its own restroom. A large indoor shared activity room features prominently on the lower level, along with a “warming kitchen” to prepare in-class meals.

Kwasniewski highlighted a 10,000-square-foot green play area in the front of the building that would replace much of the asphalt that currently spreads across the site.

It fell to Weston to deliver the potential price tag of making the drawings a reality. The construction costs of completely renovating and repurposing the building would be $7.6 million. However, total costs, after figuring in innumerable other expenses such as kitchen equipment, insurance, bid advertisements, and contingency fees, would approach $9.9 million. Weston reported that this compares to a cost of $12 million for a totally new facility.

As the presentation wrapped up, committee member Robert Leary posed the question that was perhaps on everyone’s mind. “Where would this $10 million come from?” he asked.

Superintendent Colleen Jermain responded that at this point the Triplett proposal is simply information for consideration. “This is not currently in the budget, but this is an option to better position our district if monies become available. We will seek grants in trying to secure funding for this,” she said. As for the efforts expended on the architects’ work, she commented, “This was a great opportunity and we took advantage of it. There was no cost to the taxpayers or to the school system.”

Committee member Jo Eva Gaines echoed Jermain’s concerns about Newport’s pressing need for more space. “The pre-K movement is big and eventually we will have to find housing for these 3- and 4-year-olds. We have to be prepared for them. There’s no room at Pell.”

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