West

Brookline gets look at latest Devotion School plans

BROOKLINE — Hundreds of parents and other residents packed an auditorium at the Edward Devotion School late last month to hear and discuss the town’s latest plans for the 121-year-old institution’s long-awaited renovation.

While some in the crowd requested an update on how the multimillion-dollar project would be funded — the town’s Override Committee has recommended a Proposition 2½ debt exclusion that would raise between $44 million and $49 million in new taxes to help cover a majority of renovation costs — most were curious about the latest design plans by Cambridge-based HMFH Architects.

Phillip Lewis, the firm’s lead architect on the project, said the latest plans would allow the redone school building to accommodate 1,022 students, up from the current 850.

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Schematic designs provided by HMFH staff for the forum depicted underground parking, a new kitchen and cafe, a new main gymnasium with a smaller attached fitness room, and two prekindergarten classrooms along with other space on the first floor.

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“When I was a teacher a million years ago, Devotion was in the queue,” said Betsy DeWitt, a member of the Brookline Board of Selectmen and of the Devotion School Building Committee.

“In fact, Devotion would have been the next structure of our districtwide nine school buildings to be renovated after Runkle,’’ another K-8 school, was completed in late 2012, she said. “But after the planning process there was an explosion in enrollment that delayed things while we figured out how to expand before ground was ever broken.

“So this has been in the works for like five years.”

DeWitt told the audience that the renovated school building will be unique in that it will be built to cluster different age and grade groups.

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“It will ultimately be larger than some communities’ high schools, in terms of total enrollment,” DeWitt said.

DeWitt said the project is at a “90 percent ready” design phase, in terms of the school’s new interior.

The external design is another story, DeWitt said.

“Given our decision to ensure that this new building is LEED certified, or in layman’s terms, extremely environmentally friendly, we still have work to do on figuring out an external design that is both earth-friendly and community-friendly,’’ she said.

The final design is expected to be voted on by the building panel and the town’s School Committee some time this spring.

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It would then be sent to the Massachusetts School Building Authority in June for approval. The town is asking the state agency to help pay for the project.

James H. Burnett III can be reached at james.burnett@ globe.com.