Darien plans $68 million upgrades for Hindley, Royle and Holmes schools


DARIEN – Plans for the revamped Ox Ridge School have now been unveiled, and three other Darien elementary schools to be upgraded have received their first permits.

KG+D Architects Vice President Erik Kaeyer presented conceptual designs of the proposed primary school extensions by Hindley, Royle and Holmes at a meeting of the Education Committee last month. The designs were unanimously approved by the school board.

The estimated construction budget for all three schools is just over $68 million, with base bids just under budget, officials said. All three buildings were last modernized in the late 1990s.

The new construction is designed to meet the Board of Education’s core recommendations, including removing all temporary portable classrooms, renovating or replacing libraries and learning communities, and incorporating a sustainable design. All schools must also offer an inclusive learning environment and maintain design continuity throughout the school system.

Rainwater drainage and parking facilities with 95 parking spaces are also part of the new building plans.

Superintendent Alan Addley thanked the HHR Building Committee and specifically Committee Chair Christopher Price for leading the project development.

“The excitement in the district, and particularly around these schools and their communities, for the development of these projects is palpable,” Addley said.

All three designs have been submitted to the Architectural Review Board and are expected to enter planning and zoning hearings towards the end of November.

While the proposal is still under consideration, Architectural Review Board chair Liz Geiger said the board “strongly supports” the plan, which was presented during a special meeting on Oct. 18. and clearer landscape plans.

“I think it’s a really positive report, and I think luckily you guys don’t have a whole list of things that you need to incorporate into this project right now,” Geiger said.

Hindley Elementary School

Hindley Elementary School plans to add a new 11,200 square foot wing for the library and specialty subjects such as world languages, art and music.

The current library at the front of the school will be removed and the school’s original facade will be restored to create a more open entrance for students, according to the plans.

The designs also include expanding classroom size and creating additional resource rooms for each grade level.

The exterior will feature a new outdoor classroom between the existing structure and the new wing, an outdoor lunch area and a paved playground.

To reduce congestion when dropping off and picking up from school, the proposal includes cutting curbs to create a new exit from school grounds and a new pedestrian walkway to improve safety when crossing Boston Post Road.

An underground storm line and a rainwater basin are planned for flood protection.

Base bids for construction are between $1 million and $1.8 million below Hindley’s $22.8 million budget.

Holmes Elementary School

Holmes Elementary School is planning an expansion of 8,000 square feet of additional classrooms, including a two-story annex for first and second grade houses, and fourth and fifth grade houses.

The school would also get a new entrance leading to an additional arts and music wing and expand its study common room into the renovated courtyard.

Finally, the Board of Education is in the process of acquiring 32 Hoyt St. — also known as the Curtis property — to house the school’s entire stormwater management system.

The original plans called for a parking lot on Curtis’ property, but after receiving safety concerns from Lake Drive residents, Kaeyer presented a revised version during the HHR Building Committee’s final meeting on Oct. 19 that removed the parking relocated to existing land.

Base bids for the renovations are about $1.5 million over budget of $20.7 million, but the cost would offset the underbudget work at Hindley and Royle, officials said.

Royle Elementary School

For Royle Elementary School, the plan calls for an estimated 17,000 square feet of additions for a two-story first and second grade house and a one-story arts and music wing.

With the move of the 1st and 2nd graders to new premises, the existing 3rd grade classrooms will be expanded. The additional space will also include more space for the learning communities.

To make room for the new school extensions, the rugby field at Royle – already a modified field – could be made even narrower or potentially moved to Middlesex Middle School, officials said.

The school would also add several more parking lots and an underground stormwater retention facility to mitigate flooding.

The base bid for construction is approximately $500,000 under budget of $24.5 million.

General Supplements

All three site plans include renovations to make the schools less dependent on fossil fuels and increase energy efficiency, including dual electric heating systems, updated ventilation systems and replacing existing fluorescent lighting with LEDs.

Not included in the current building plans, but suggested by KG+D, are roof renewals for all three schools, which have not been fully replaced since 2006. The total cost for all three roofs is estimated at $3.6 million.

As existing roofs need to be replaced, the Education Council would need to postpone plans to install solar panels on the roof.

Education Committee Chair David Dineen confirmed that waiting for solar panels to be installed on a new roof is the most efficient route and will not significantly impact discussions with the Connecticut Green Bank.

“While we continue to consider solar for all of these buildings and want to become as efficient as possible, they are willing to work with us in the future,” Dineen said. “Turns out they also have some issues with supply chain issues with the Green Bank and with solar arrays. So everything is going in our favor.”


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