NASHUA — Local officials have been provided with the first conceptual layout of a proposed middle school on city-owned property — one of several considerations included in a major middle school renovation project.
The concept, presented by the Harriman architectural firm, includes a three-story, 180,000-square-foot building with three ball fields, tennis courts and basketball courts off Cherrywood Drive.
Harriman is expected to present its final report and recommendations to the Nashua Joint Special School Building Committee next week, which will jumpstart the decision-making process.
The proposed building would be constructed on a vacant, 20-acre site with an access drive from Buckmeadow Road and emergency access from Cherrywood Drive, according to Jamie Ouellette of Harriman. About 150 parking spaces are being proposed for the parcel, which has the ability to connect to an existing trail network, he said.
The school would incorporate innovative middle school classroom communities, according to Ouellette, who said the classroom wings would be separate and include their own pod spaces. The proposed design would allow the classroom wings to be blocked off from public spaces that are typically used for after-school activities or community access, he said.
“There is the ability to expand, should the need be,” said Ouellette, adding there would be designated space for unified arts and STEM initiatives, as well as administrative space.
A separate library and computer area is also proposed, as well as a performance stage in the gymnasium.
“Right now, it is planned to have 800 bleacher spaces,” Ouellette said of the gymnasium, explaining there would be space for additional seating on the gymnasium floor.
Superintendent Jahmal Mosley stressed that some Nashua students shine on the field, while others shine on stage. He emphasized the need to accommodate the fine arts sector within the middle schools.
Harriman’s Mark Lee said most middle school facilities do not have a separate auditorium. Although Elm Street Middle School has an existing theater, Lee said that is because it formerly housed high school operations.
“The cost of putting an auditorium in is prohibitive,” said Alderman Richard Dowd. “It would add significant cost and space to the site.”
Mosley said he understands there is a financial element to the project, but said he would like the opportunity to mirror fine arts programs that are already in place.
In addition to the proposed new middle school, the city’s large overall middle school project proposes the potential closure of Elm Street Middle School, or renovations or expansions to the city’s three existing middle schools.
Those renovations would enable each school to house about 800 students each. The proposed renovations include potential building additions for more classrooms, secure entrances, electrical upgrades, new science labs, team collaborative space, gymnasium upgrades, expanded special education areas and more.
“It will still be a while before any final decision is made,” said Dowd.