By Jim McGaw

Portsmouth schools send plan for improvements to state

Include PHS Memorial Drive upgrades, AC for field house

Posted 9/20/22

PORTSMOUTH — The school district has taken another step toward its plans to bring air conditioning to the field house and to make improvements to Memorial Drive at Portsmouth High …

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By Jim McGaw

Portsmouth schools send plan for improvements to state

Include PHS Memorial Drive upgrades, AC for field house

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — The school district has taken another step toward its plans to bring air conditioning to the field house and to make improvements to Memorial Drive at Portsmouth High School.

The School Committee voted unanimously Sept. 14 to submit a design development review for the field house HVAC project, and a schematic design review for the Memorial Drive project, to the R.I. Department of Education School Building Authority. The projects are part of the district’s Stage II five-year facilities capital plan; voters approved a $21.44 million school improvement bond in November 2021. The district hopes to receive a 40-percent state housing aid reimbursement (about $8.57 million) to help offset costs.

Chris DiIuro, the school district’s director of finance and administration, said the plan for Memorial Drive, a one-way street that enters the PHS campus from Turnpike Avenue, calls for 23 additional parking spaces, improved vehicular circulation at the main entrance, and a continuous sidewalk for pedestrian traffic along entire length.

“The budget for this project is about $1.1 million. The initial cost estimate came in at $1.2 million. We have two more design attempts at this and two more budget estimates,” DiIuro said.

In response to questions raised earlier by the district’s Building Committee, DiIuro said he doesn’t believe the javelin-throwing area off Memorial Drive will be impacted by the project, and workers will make sure a water line for a bubbler — previously shut off due to the COVID-19 pandemic — will not be disturbed. The intention is for no dirt to come or go from the site, and the project also will not disturb an existing septic system, he said.

Installing air conditioning in the PHS field house is necessary because it gets hot inside the building during the warmer months, and there are issues with moisture, condensation, and air quality, according to school officials. As part of the project, the current electrical system would have to be upgraded.

The district has slightly over $1.2 million budgeted for the project. Although the schematic design cost estimate came in at $1.06 million, DiIuro said that figure will more than likely increase with inflation. Assuming it receives state approval, the district hopes to go out to bid in winter 2023, with construction to start that spring or summer.

Bleachers need upgrades

In other business last week, the committee voted — somewhat reluctantly — to commit about $15,000 in capital funds to perform “emergency” repairs to three sets of bleachers: at the PHS turf field, the PHS field house, and the middle school gymnasium.

Superintendent Thomas Kenworthy said the deficiencies came to light after a recent inspection by HusseyAdvantage. R.I. Interlocal Risk Management Trust, the district’s insurer, requires the department to bring in an outside company to do periodic assessments of all its bleachers, he said.

Hussey’s cost estimates included $8,835 in repairs at the middle school, $4,360 at the PHS field house, and $1,840 at the PHS turf field (the latter to tighten and replace loose and missing attachment hardware).

Committee member Fred Faerber II questioned the needed repairs at the turf field. “I walked up into the bleachers and looked around as a casual observer, and I honestly couldn’t see anything that was apparently so damaged and in disrepair that it needed to be replaced,” he said. He then asked why no sections were cordoned off if they posed a safety risk.

Kenworthy replied that nothing has yet risen to a dangerous level, but that “this company is telling us the problem is going to get worse and possibly dangerous.”

Committee Chair Emily Copeland thought it was “interesting” that the company saying the bleachers could be dangerous “also gets the repair job.” Kenworthy replied that Hussey was most likely on a list of companies the insurer required the district to use.

Radios for PHS

The committee also voted unanimously to approve $8,167 in capital funds for new mobile radios to improve safety and security at PHS.

“The high school has never had radios that worked in the building,” said Kenworthy, adding that the devices would cover the entire campus. The district could consider using the devices at the middle school in the future, he said.

“Seems like a no-brainer to me; I’m really surprised we don’t have them,” said Copeland. “Just thinking about needing to talk to the athletic trainer if there’s an accident on the field or something.”

Personnel updates

Kenworthy announced the following new hires in the district, which he said wraps up the last group of appointments for the new school year:

Certified: Stephanie D’Annolfo and Farah Martin, behavior interventionists at Hathaway and Melville schools, respectively (one year only); Kelsey Vieira, grade 3 teacher at Melville (one year only); John DiGangi, physical education/health teacher at the middle school; and Shannon Ryan and Karen Engstrume, who will be splitting a position as elementary school psychologist.

Support staff: Jessica O’Brien and Kimberly Ripa, teacher assistants at Melville; Lauren Souza, teacher assistant at Hathaway; Lori Gaetani and Christina Caruso, teacher assistants at the middle school; Rachel Carraway, Bente Rainer, and Susan Mayes, all building substitute teachers (one year only) at Melville, the middle school, and PHS, respectively; Rebeca Hurst and Andrea Smith, general school aides (GSA) at Melville; Emily Chamberlain, GSA at Hathaway; Lori MacDonald, the district’s child outreach screener; Jeanette Hwang, school nurse assistant at Melville; Marc Viveiros, security specialist at Melville; and Katherine Sanford, clerical C position at the middle school.

In addition, Kenworthy said he accepted the resignation of Cal Harrington, a grade 3 teacher at Melville.

COVID-19 update

“Current guidance from CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and the R.I. Department of Health has shifted to an endemic response, and most of the restrictions we have had in place for the past few years have been lifted. However, we know that COVID-19 is very much with us and will be part of our daily lives and routines for the foreseeable future,” the superintendent told the committee.

All members of the school community are being asked to self-monitor for symptoms, test when necessary, and follow CDC guidance on isolation and returning to school and work if one tests positive, he said, adding that school nurses remain the best resources for any questions on COVID-19. Charity Shea, director of student services, oversee health services and nursing staff, Kenworth said.

Homecoming

Kenworthy informed the committee that this year’s Homecoming celebration will be on Saturday, Oct. 8. 

The PHS varsity football team will host Shea on the turf field at 1:30 p.m. Details about the parade are still to come.

2022 by East Bay Media Group

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Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.