Superintendent Peter Lancia stands in the classroom where his teaching career at the Saccarappa School began. Newly renovated, the room features more natural light, space and higher quality air ventilation. Chance Viles/American Journal

WESTBROOK— The roughly $27.3 million renovation and expansion at Saccarappa School will wrap up as the school year begins, but work on the playground has been delayed.

School starts next week for most Westbrook students. Grades 1-9 begin Aug. 28 and grades 10-12, Aug. 29. Kindergarten opens Sept. 3 and pre-K at Saccarrappa starts Sept. 9.   

At Saccarappa, students and parents will find a school that has nearly doubled in size. The school received its certification of occupancy in July, as well as a certificate for substantial completion.

“The cafeteria is a gorgeous, full-service kitchen with warm lighting,” Lancia said. “It is set up well and with the windows and lights, it will be a soft setting even when it is full with 100 kids.”

A freshly renovated music room. While the work is finished, many of the rooms are still being equipped with new furniture. Chance Viles/American Journal

It includes a sink and other kitchen equipment in the common area and the school hopes parents will socialize there.

“We wanted a place for people to talk to each other. When they are picking up the kids they do that anyway, so now they have that spot and can make coffee or have a seat,” Lancia said.

The library, previously housed in a room fit for a small class,  will be a gathering place for students.

The school’s wide hallways also have meeting spaces for parents and students.

“There is just a lot more space in the halls and in the rooms, too,” Lancia said. The classrooms have built-in cupboards and lockers.

Every classroom has a window now, a big change for some of the teachers, especially pre-K teachers who are moving to the school from the Community Center on Bridge Street.

“It’s very beautiful and the windows are amazing. … And the room has its own bathroom, which is just incredible when working with younger kids,” pre-K family advocate Kristin Reindl said.

The halls are wide and have turns and bends, making the hallways appear shorter while also bringing in more natural light. Chance Viles/American Journal

Classroom lighting is regulated by how bright it is outside, automatically dimming when the sun is out and increasing on cloudy days.

“The rooms with their ventilation have a constant flow of moving, fresh air. The rooms were a bit stuffy before, it just feels a lot better breathing in here,” Lancia said.

In the center of the school is an enclosed courtyard, with a path that leads from one side of the school to the other. The courtyard allowed a space in the middle of the school, meaning interior classrooms still have windows with sunlight.

“It is gorgeous, I have so many sinks and am so excited to start the school year,” art teacher Cheri Juniewicz said. “The lighting is great, there are no shadows in the room.”

Juniewicz’s room is on the courtyard, so she hopes to also use that outdoor space for her classes.

Students will have to wait a while longer for their playground, however. Work was halted because of the high costs of some of the labor and equipment, Lancia said.

“We have had to rebid some of the original specs because of availability of the workers and material as well as cost. We hope for work to begin this August and finish installation mid-fall,” he said.

The courtyard path connects the new wing of the school to the older, recently renovated wing. Chance Viles/American Journal

Those rebids are still out, he said.

“The process was not as smooth as we hoped. Everything is working just fine, but it’s just delayed, and the kids will play on the space already there. It’ll be a two-week window from when its dug up to reconstructed, but until that time we have full use of the space,” Lancia said.

Funding of $133,000 was approved for the playground, designed by Sashie Misner, a local landscape architect.

The plan for the space is not like traditional playgrounds.

“It is what is called an integrated play space because it does not rely solely on equipment. It works hand and hand with the landscape,” said Misner, who has been designing playgrounds for the last dozen years, including those at East End Community School and Breakwater School in Portland.

The playground was slated to have an Elephant Play rope climbing structure with a bridge and slide, a Global Motion spinning structure, hanging bars, logs,boulders, sand area, play tunnel and wooden benches. Students will also be able to play on a swing set, paved basketball court and athletic fields.

 

The new gym. Prior to this room, the gym was in the same room as the cafeteria and was not an appropriate size for games. Chance Viles/American Journal

The playground, which has been treated as a separate project from the school building, is behind schedule and is expected to be finished in the fall. Chance Viles/American Journal

The new library. New furniture will be added soon, so the desks and chairs are only placeholders. Chance Viles/American Journal


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