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home : news : local   October 3, 2015

1/17/2013 2:25:00 PM
150 parents might pick up students daily after school expands in Spring Valley

Submitted imagesOn the sketch, the west parking lot that was discussed Wednesday night is in the foreground, the new school design is north (left) of the existing John F. Kennedy School, which is the south (right) half of the complex that will be expanded.
+ click to enlarge
Submitted images
On the sketch, the west parking lot that was discussed Wednesday night is in the foreground, the new school design is north (left) of the existing John F. Kennedy School, which is the south (right) half of the complex that will be expanded.
+ click to enlarge
Craig Sterrett
News Editor

After more than an hour of discussion on design of a parking lot and a predicted lineup of as many 150 parents picking up children at the end of school days after Kennedy School doubles in size into a kindergarten- through eighth-grade school, Spring Valley Elementary School Board sent an architect back to the drawing board.

Engineer Don DeFrates of Springfield may have anticipated the board would approve his drawings, traffic pattern, storm sewer placement and landscaping for a parking lot for the west side of Kennedy School on Wednesday.

But before Wednesday’s meeting, board member Jack Kusek, an engineer, had drawn up a second proposal for the way to move traffic around and the way to configure parking spaces for a west-side lot. Kusek contended that DeFrates’ drawing, which included multiple east-west aisles with straight-in parking for 138 cars, and a driving and parking lane encircling the entire lot, could cause confusion for students, with the potential for cars to be moving through the lot in various directions.

He also contended that a motorist in one of the aisles could, accidentally or not, drive over the front curb strike the building entrance. TheSpringfieldengineers at the meeting said they could install bollards (posts) to prevent that.

Kusek’s drawing called for two long north-south aisles and one-way traffic only. Traffic could either circle the lot or serpentine in a tall S pattern through the lot. He drew his plan because he wanted parents who were driving to the school to pick up students to only pass by a “Stop” line at the entrance to the school in one direction.

DeFrates took issue with Kusek having two long curb/islands in his drawing, saying it would hinder drainage and adding that he would have to spend two weeks on a new set of architectural designs including the moving of a storm sewer, drains and light posts.

Project architect Bill Van Dusen from Allied Design, Springfield, said he preferred DeFrates’ design because it would give parents multiple opportunities to exit after picking up or dropping off students. Meanwhile, he said Kusek’s drawing could cause parents to be stuck in traffic at least an extra 5-10 minutes, and if a car or truck broke down, that jam could get worse. Kusek said those lanes would be 16 feet wide, so motorists would not get trapped. Engineer Frank Maras said curbs in Kusek’s alternate design would create a problem for snow removal, perhaps requiring heavier snow removal equipment to be able to push snow the entire north-south length of the lot.

“There are several positives to this one … we feel (it) will allow for good traffic flow,” Van Dusen said of DeFrates’ design.

After more discussion, the board directed DeFrates to complete drawings for a lot to be painted to initially use his parking and traffic configuration, but to change the grade and remove some landscaping so the lot could be reconfigured and repainted if school officials discover parking lot plan No. 1 does not work. Maras would have to determine if changes will affect placement of geothermal wells in any way.

“It’s better to build ourselves an option,” board member Jim Scarpaci said.

DeFrates agreed that he could “get rid of green space and it will be a sea of concrete.”

Superintendent Jim Hermes noted other districts that built new schools found out quickly if the after-school pick-up lineup wasn’t working. He said at Peru Parkside, school officials found out in just a week.

Van Dusen sought the board’s approval to send final bid specifications — currently 175 drawings — to contractors as soon as they’re complete, which would be before the board’s February meeting. That was not listed on Wednesday’s agenda. The board agreed to schedule a special meeting soon to give Van Dusen the go-ahead, though Kusek wanted to look over how several issues such as drainage would be handled.

Van Dusen currently estimates the school cost around $14.6 million, and hopes the project, including engineering and design, will come in below that. He said contractors are looking for work and this is a good time to start a project.

The district received a grant covering almost 75 percent of the cost, and in 2009, the district borrowed $5.1 million. Separately, the district will hold on to $1 million of the loan money; Hermes wants the existing Kennedy school to have air conditioning, but renovation cannot be included in the building-addition plan.

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