The grounds of Chatterton Elementary School will be fenced off and inaccessible throughout the summer, as the district moves forward with the first of several construction projects.
According to Merrick School District Superintendent Dr. Dominick Palma, the district recently received state approval to begin a significant parking lot expansion, and to move an adjacent playground to another spot, to allow for more parking.
The new playground “will definitely be an improvement” on the one being torn down, Palma said.
Voters approved $19.9 million in borrowing to pay for improvements district-wide in a special election in December 2016.
The work will eventually include a 5,800 square-foot expansion to Chatterton, renovation of bathrooms, new heating systems, sidewalks and electrical systems.
The parking situation had grown untenable for faculty and staff at Chatterton, according to Palma, and when parents came to the school for special events, “we were very, very short.”
Now, the existing lot will be expanded to take over the whole of where the old playground and a basketball court were located. The playground and court will be moved south of their prior location, on the grounds of an old, unused baseball field.
Staff remains in the building, but the grounds were considered too unsafe to allow other traffic or use during the summer, Palma said.
The parking lot expansion, new playground and basketball court are expected to be done in time for the first day of school, and Palma said that the district is still awaiting state approval for the school addition.
“Hopefully they’ll be able to break ground before the winter,” he said.
The entire project will cost $24.9 million, $5 million of which will come from the district’s fund balance, according to school officials.
Superintendent Dr. Dominick Palma said at the time of the vote that the renovations would provide “a 21st-century learning environment for children.”
“Merrick School District’s newest school building was built over 50 years ago, and the oldest building is past its 90th year,” he said.