SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

March 4, 2013

Smith overdue for an update?

Danvers will try again to get 1973 school on list for renovations

DANVERS — Built into the side of a hill off Lobao Drive, the low-slung, two-story Ivan G. Smith School has the stark appearance of a museum, library or science building built in the 1970s.

Instead of the usual walls, it has metal panels. And it’s safe to say that some in town are not crazy about its look.

Smith School was built at a time when open classrooms were in vogue. That’s not so much the case today, and its wide, open spaces have made it hard to configure individual classrooms and offices inside.

Town officials say the 40-year-old Smith School is in need of an update and are trying to get it on the list of Massachusetts School Building Authority projects, making it eligible for state funding.

For the second year in a row, the town plans to submit a statement of interest to get on the list. From there, the town would conduct a feasibility study to figure out whether the school, which serves children in kindergarten through fifth grade, should be renovated or replaced. There’s no cost attached to the project yet.

“We have to study the building in depth ... what kind of shape it’s in, where it’s going to be in 50 years,” said David Lane, the public works director.

While the school is structurally sound, he said, work needs to be done inside and out.

The school has outside walls made of metal panels that keep rusting out and require constant painting, using a complicated electrostatic process. The school’s single-pane windows are not energy-efficient, and a low-slung ceiling that is tied in with the heating and ventilation system needs to be ripped out and replaced.

In addition, even though the school sits on a 5-acre lot, it’s pressed up against woods, limiting parking. And because the school is built into the side of a hill, keeping stormwater away can be a challenge, Lane said.

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