Barrington School Committee selects Sowams School site for construction

Future of Hampden Meadows School not clear yet

By Josh Bickford
Posted 12/8/23

Hampden Meadows or Sowams — which will it be?

On Thursday night, Dec. 7, members of the Barrington School Committee chose the Sowams School site for the construction of a preK to Grade 5 …

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Barrington School Committee selects Sowams School site for construction

Future of Hampden Meadows School not clear yet

Posted

Hampden Meadows or Sowams — which will it be?

On Thursday night, Dec. 7, members of the Barrington School Committee chose the Sowams School site for the construction of a preK to Grade 5 school. 

But the decision was not an easy one. 

School Committee members said there was not much separation between the two sites. The estimated cost to renovate and expand either school was about the same, said officials. The building sizes and structures would be about the same, they said. And the time needed to finish the projects was about the same. 

One of the few differences, said Barrington School Committee Chairman Patrick McCrann, was the amount of new construction that would be part of the Sowams School project. According to information provided by the architect, Tecton, there would be 46,749 square feet of new construction at Sowams, but only 33,767 square feet of new construction at Hampden Meadows. 

Tecton Principal Justin Hopkins said that is because the current Sowams School building is currently smaller than Hampden Meadows — about 17,000 square feet smaller. 

In an interview on Friday morning, McCrann said the Sowams School property is also quite a bit bigger than the Hampden Meadows property. Information from Tecton states that the Sowams site is 18.21 acres while Hampden Meadows is 10.33 acres. McCrann said the additional land would offer officials more flexibility, including for the construction staging portion of the work. 

Residents and members of the School Committee voiced concerns about clearing the woods behind Hampden Meadows School in order to accommodate for renovation/expansion at that site. McCrann said that while Tecton’s plans allowed for the preservation of some of that woodlands, a lot of the trees would need to be cut down to make room for construction vehicles and access off of Kent Street. 

“Land is precious in Barrington. We don’t have a lot of it. In the Hampden Meadows space, with Kent Pond, there’s a lot of people who use that corridor,” McCrann said. “That greenway might be the only greenway in Barrington. It’s part of our community, and people spoke out about it.”

During a virtual meeting on Monday night, a number of residents said they wanted to preserve the wooded area behind Hampden Meadows School. 

McCrann said the two-story option at Hampden Meadows School also raised concerns about the proximity of the two-story structure to some neighboring homes. The two-story addition was proposed for the southern side of the school, abutting private residences. 

“There just wasn’t a lot of room left,” McCrann said, adding that the HMS site is bound by New Meadow Road, Kent Street and Kent Pond.

The School Committee will submit its Stage II application for school construction projects in Barrington to the Rhode Island Department of Education in February.  

Keeping the property

School Committee members emphasized that the decision to use Sowams School for the preK-5 school does not mean the district is abandoning Hampden Meadows School.

Quite the opposite, said McCrann.

“We have full intention to continue to use that (Hampden Meadows) property,” McCrann said. “We don’t know what we’re doing with the Hampden Meadows site but there’s no intention to abandon it. We can’t predict the future.

“I imagine as we get closer to the end of the project, in four or five years, we’ll have much more clarity about what we’re going to do. For people who work at Hampden Meadows and love Hampden Meadows, this is not the end of Hampden Meadows. It’s still going to be part of our educational community. We just don’t have a plan for what we’re going to do there.”

McCrann mentioned the proposed housing development at the former Zion Bible College property and what impact it could have on the district’s student population. 

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