Countryside Elementary School Building Committee Submits Plans for New Construction

The Countryside School Building Committee unanimously voted to submit its Preferred Schematic Report (PSR) to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) during a meeting on Tuesday night.

“The preferred schematic report really is just identifying, as we’ve discussed previously, that the northern corner of the site is basically where we want the building to be,” said Josh Morse, commissioner of public buildings in Newton. “The site plan itself is still not fully developed.”

The location of the current school building has been a key concern among city officials.

The current school building is situated in a flood zone, according to the City of Newton’s webpage on the Countryside School project.

 A report on existing conditions documents damage to the school’s mechanical, electrical, and plumbing equipment from chronic flooding. 

The new site farther to the north would place the school building on higher ground and away from South Meadow Brook, the wetlands, and the flood zone, according to the project webpage. 

If the PSR is approved, the committee will begin working on a schematic design package for evaluation by the MSBA. 

“It will take quite a bit of time,” Morse said. “We’ve got a lot of work left between now and then to work with our design review committee, our city council, the community, the building committee, the Countryside School, the staff, everybody.”

In a special override election on March 14, Newton voters passed a temporary tax increase to help fund a total of $5.8 million in improvements to Countryside Elementary School and Franklin Elementary School. Countryside will receive $2.3 million in funding from the override vote.

The school has not received substantive investment for 65 years, according to the existing conditions report.

In addition to moving the building outside of the flood zone, the renovations will address Countryside’s lack of restrooms accessible by wheelchair, inaccessible doors, and the need for space for small group instruction, special education, and support staff. 

The redesign also aims to create a school that can accommodate the growing student population. Countryside’s enrollment is expected to exceed 400 students in coming years, the city’s website reads.

The Countryside School Building Committee hopes to seek site plan approval in the fall of 2023, according to Morse.

“We’re targeting the end of the fall right now,” he said. “Things like where the parking lots are, where the ball fields are, where the playground sits, pedestrian access, accessibility, topography, stormwater—all of those things still need to be worked on in great detail over the next six to eight months.”

Construction on the new Countryside building is projected to begin in the summer of 2025 and end in the summer of 2027. 

“Every time we start a new school building project, I explain to the community that the incredible educators are providing an amazing educational experience despite the challenging facility they’re in,” Morse wrote in a letter to the community. “However, this is not how it’s supposed to be. School buildings are supposed to foster, comfort, nature, and nurture educational, social, and emotional growth.”

April 28, 2023