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Del Norte site plans presented at public forum; School construction and park changes shared with attendees

Scott Hicks, from Smith Engineering, stands at the lectern sharing that he lives in the neighborhood and understands the community perspective on the Del Norte Elementary School construction and love for the park on the east side of the school. Arthur McGoye, SMPC architect, stands to Hicks’ right next to the site plan on Tuesday evening in Del Norte’s gymnasium. (Alison Penn Photo)

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The site plans for the new Del Norte Elementary school were presented at a public forum on Tuesday night.

Jeannie Muse points at the site plans during the presentation at the public forum on Tuesday evening at Del Norte Elementary School. Her husband Joe Muse also asked questions during the forum regarding Del Norte Park. The couple has lived in this area for 19 years and said they felt relieved after the concerns were heard by the city and architects. (Alison Penn Photo)

Raimund McClain from McClain + Yu Architecture & Design and Dave Cook and Arthur McGoye from SMPC Architects presented the site plans to the community and the city. Scott Hicks, from Smith Engineering, is the only local team member and lives in the neighborhood close to Del Norte Park.

Mac Rodgers, Roswell Independent School District construction manager, was present for questions from the community.

City Manager Joe Neeb said today marked his one year anniversary as city manager and he facilitated the forum. The public forum also addressed the community selected topics of speeding, illegal parking around Del Norte Elementary, school resource officers and an alternative to Main Street and Garden Avenue.

The city staff and architects said the park will remain accessible to the public, however, the fenced-in school play areas will only be accessible after school hours.

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City Engineer Louis Najar said a year ago in February, council passed a resolution with the original idea that the donated the park would be the grounds for the new school building, which has changed in the current site plans. Najar said RISD’s plans for the park will go back on the table again between the city and RISD to discuss RISD’s plans and how it could impact maintenance, access to the park and access to the citizens.

McClain said the project took a number of months of listening and planning with the school and community. The proposed draft site plan illustrated the new Del Norte Elementary School building facing an east to west axis along the south side of the site with the entrance facing La Paloma Lane and Goddard High School. Parents will have a similar pickup and drop-off site, and hopefully safer and more efficient, on the south near the new entrance. What will be done for the existing front parking is undecided because of the sources of funding, Mclain said. McGoye said the vacant lot between the two schools will be a staging or laydown yard for construction staff and this will keep construction off the play areas during construction.

“The goal is to create a building you’ll be proud of,” McGoye said. “It has a presence, but not a demanding presence — something as a community who can really rally around because education facilities are a symbol of our community and of our future.”

The architects said the site plans would be available in the school’s lobby.

Community members that live around Del Norte noted concerns of speeding and illegal parking, ignoring signage during pick-up and drop-off. McGoye said issues like speeding should be taken to the city but hopes the design will help with circulation. The current north lot will be expanded for teachers to the existing drop-off location with 123 parking spaces total.

Hicks said a discussion with the fire marshal determined the fire lane access off St. Andrews Lane.

McClain also said the park is relatively unchanged with a portion of the building to be two stories to create space and added the school will be in use during construction. McGoye echoed this and said Del Norte Park is lovely and that will not be ruined or disturbed as the architects are focusing on the facilities.

McGoye said the development of the school and park focused on maintaining engagement with the community and promote connection while keeping children safe and engaged in their learning.

The building will be organized into a public side with a library, gym and cafeteria behind a secured lobby where a receptionist will buzz you in and the other side is a two-story instructional wing with a small single wing for special education, according to McGoye. The gymnasium will be the only remaining part of the existing structure.

McClain said the building will go out to bid mid-fall with construction beginning in late fall and early winter, and the building will open before school starts in 2020. He added the construction will have the following two major phases: construction of the new building and demolition of the old building with the replacement of the landscaping elements.

Community members asked about the sidewalk, wheelchair access, existing park areas and asbestos during demolition. McGoye said potential disruptions to access will be brief and temporary.

A neighbor Joe Muse asked which part of the park would be accessible to the public, which McClain replied the school will have a fence to be closed off in the school areas and playgrounds but the park will remain as is.

Jeannie and Joe Muse, who both have lived in the area for 19 years, said they felt like their voices were heard and concerns were answered. Jeannie Muse said she feels bad for the residents on La Paloma Lane and realizes the intention is to relieve traffic to Atkinson Avenue.

Stephanie Kitchen said she is concerned that RISD will not maintain the park or change their minds about public access. She asked who residents should talk to and Rodgers said to call the central RISD office and that RISD fully intends to give the public access to the park. Neeb also suggested the community should call City Council and RISD school board.

“Once this thing is built — we are going to have the fourth newest school,” Hicks said. “We’ve brand new schools in the last 10 years built here and we are getting the fourth one. I think that is great. It’s going to help all of our property values and everything. We will have a brand new school here and we get to keep our park.”

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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