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March 08. 2013 10:41AM

Floor plan for education center approved by Windham planning board

WINDHAM -- Following the planning board's approval of an updated floor plan for an emerging education center on Roulston Road, officials from the El-Hefni Technical Training Foundation are hoping to begin construction on the building with the spring thaw.

The board ultimately approved the final floor plan 4-1, with board member Kristi St. Laurent voting in opposition.

Community Development Director Laura Scott said the project plans were approved in early January, but as a condition of approval, project officials were required to return to the board with an updated floor plan to show the building's entrances and exits.

Scott said both the fire inspector and the building inspector have reviewed the floor plan and voiced their approval.

"The applicant is well aware if there are any further changes, they'd have to go before the board," Scott said.

St. Laurent said she had some concerns about the building's accessibility. She noted the floor plan has three levels of use but no elevator. That means the upper level classroom wouldn't be accessible to students or staff unable to climb stairs.

The lower level only has one exit, board members further noted.

Scott said local safety officials had no initial issues with the floor plans, though questions could arise during the building process.

"There were no immediate concerns with the building's footprint," she said.

No one from the public offered comment on the matter, nor did El-Hefni spokesman Joe Leone, who was seated in the audience.

On Jan. 9, project engineers for the educational foundation approached the board with earlier plans for a 7,044 square-foot math and science education center using alternative energy sources and green building design concepts.

The facility will sit in a 29-acre segment of the 245-acre property, with the remaining areas to be kept in a natural state to augment the school's mission of teaching environmental studies to educators and local schoolchildren.

Once built, the foundation's Quarry Brook Outdoor Learning Center have around ten full-time employees and will feature solar power and other green technology that can be used as teaching tools, as will an existing pond that is being revitalized.

Based on a program located in Palos Verdes, Calif., the learning center won't enroll full-time students but will instead assist area teachers in developing science programs for their own school curriculum.

The center will also be open for school field trips from time to time, with lessons taught onsite tied in to the subjects taught in children's respective classrooms.

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