Robert Powers of Powers & Company Inc. Historic Preservation Services stands in front of the Port Chester Bond Advisory Committee during their Thursday, Oct. 6 meeting to discuss any adverse effects of building onto a structure that is eligible to be on the National Register of Historic Places. 
Casey Watts|Westmore News
Robert Powers of Powers & Company Inc. Historic Preservation Services stands in front of the Port Chester Bond Advisory Committee during their Thursday, Oct. 6 meeting to discuss any adverse effects of building onto a structure that is eligible to be on the National Register of Historic Places. Casey Watts|Westmore News

The meeting began with a presentation from Powers & Company Inc. Historic Preservation Services representative Robert Powers and ended with the Port Chester Bond Advisory Committee narrowing down the building choices from 11 remaining concepts to four during their Thursday, Oct. 6 meeting.

During his presentation, Powers explained that although Port Chester High School is eligible, it is not listed on the National Register of Historic Places. However, when any addition is considered on a building that is eligible for the register, the state will need to sign off on the concept before giving any aid, he said. Schools are looked at differently than other listings as they are living sites, so if the state finds that there is an adverse effect on the existing structure, it will send a letter to the district with what their concerns are and suggestions on how to work around it.

“The idea is let’s come up with a solution that works for you,” Powers said.

With this in mind, the committee was off and running. Joe Fuller of Fuller and D’Angelo P.C. Architects and Planners pulled up his revised PowerPoint plans, which featured all of the plans that could have a gym onsite, and a model of the high school to help illustrate where each addition would go.

The members made quick work and realized that a fieldhouse, although a good idea, would not be practical for students, especially with the short time in between classes and trusting students to walk straight to the fieldhouse and back to the main school building without any detours off campus. Therefore, the committee voted and passed the motion to eliminate any plan that required a fieldhouse with a vote of 21 for, none against and two abstentions. This vote eliminated seven plans.

A second vote was put forth to have the gym attached to the high school, which passed with a vote of 20-3. This vote eliminated one idea, which left four for discussion.

Following is a description of all the concepts. It is important to note that these are only designs and do not include bathrooms, mechanical spaces, elevators, etc. They do not size the rooms by scale and are subject to change. Just because the final four plans are eligible to be voted on for approval does not mean they are guaranteed to be chosen at this time. Of the four, only one will be presented to the Board of Education for their consideration.

Eligible plans

Concept One: This idea adds to the north side of the building on College Avenue. The addition is flush with the existing structure and stands at three stories tall. The side near the current gym would house a competition-sized gymnasium, which would be separated from the academic side by a glass atrium. The atrium, which showcases the pilasters and steps, would improve the flow of student traffic.

This addition would have 16-17 classrooms and a new cafeteria. The old cafeteria would be turned into a band room.

“This is the least ornamental of the elevations,” Powers said in terms of where the addition would be located. Because of this, a state representative with whom he was in contact said this concept has potential to get aid.

The traffic loop would be removed in order to build on the north side. The front of the building facing Park Avenue would be symmetrical with the existing wing and the back of it would extend up to Tamarack Road.

Concept 11: This plan is similar to the previous one, except there is no glass atrium. The pilasters would be exposed as they are now. Fuller said this could create problems because the point of the atrium is to alleviate student congestion.

Concept 14: This is the plan that was put forth in the bond referendum that was presented to the voters last December and failed to pass. It creates a two-story structure in front of the Park Avenue façade and behind the bleachers. The addition would be attached to the wings and sunk into the ground, but it would block part of the view. It would add a gym and locker rooms with access to the field on the first floor and classrooms on the second story. Fuller theorized that this would only block the steps, and the columns would be visible from Park Avenue.

“I took your advice and looked about three feet higher than the pole,” committee member Richard Hyman said. “From Park Avenue, the sight line blocks about a third of the columns. From the track, it blocks the bottom of the second floor window and more than half of the columns.”

When this plan was first put forward, the state requested additional information on the idea and that information has been sent out. The district is waiting to hear back.

Concept 18: Built above Tamarack Road and the parking lot, this plan would have two separate buildings on both wings. The original idea was to have one long hall connecting both, but Fuller and D’Angelo redid the drawing so there is a gap with a glass walkway to allow the view of the Tamarack Building to still be partially appreciated.

The classrooms would be on the second floor and there would be a band room on the same side as the auditorium, as well as a computer lab and support classrooms. The third level would include a room for choir and digital arts as well as science labs. The plan separates the academic and the music rooms so the classes would not be disturbed by the noise and the music classes are kept close to the auditorium. In total, there would be about 17-18 rooms.

A competition gym would be added adjacent to the old gym on College Avenue.

Failed plans

Concept Seven: A three-story addition on the auditorium wing would not fly with the state unless it does not touch the façade or the view, Powers explained. This would have added eight science classrooms, which could be readjusted to normal classrooms, and a music suite.

Concept Eight: This is exactly like concept 18, but it is connected in the middle by brick and is one-story tall. The state representative was lukewarm about this, Powers said.

Concept Nine: A one-story addition would have been built on the north side near College Avenue and stretch to Tamarack Road. The partially submerged structure would add eight or nine classrooms and would not have a gym. The architects also proposed building two floors instead of one, but it would block the view. If the building were sunk into the ground, blasting might be required as Fuller believes the hill is rock. According to Powers, the state representative was favorable to one floor, but not two.

Concept 13: A two-story building above Tamarack Road would add about 11 classrooms, four science labs and wouldn’t touch the parking lot. This concept was adapted into concept eight and 18. This was not favorable to the state representative, Powers said.

Concept 15: This concept was created by the committee and added on to the back of each wing on Tamarack Road. There could be a total of 10 or 12 classrooms with the possibility of a band and choral room underground or at the lowest level of the structure. The state representative was mildly impressed with this, but it did not have the required number of classrooms and does not add a gym. The idea also does not alleviate the student flow during their four-minute break between periods.

Concept 16: A building would be submerged into the stadium-side hill. It would add a new music room, locker rooms and about eight new science labs, which could be refigured into classrooms. The state representative did not like this idea.

Concept 17: This idea would add a fieldhouse on the tennis courts with the potential of relocating the courts. This idea would make it so any concept could be used without the existing building being hindered by an attached gymnasium. It would also not block the view from Park Avenue.

Board member Stephen Greto, along with a few others, toured the high school while class was in session.

“Having walked around the school Friday when class was going on and seeing how crowded it was,” he said, “it occurred to me that this fieldhouse looked great, but was it really functional, are we going to use it for classes?”

He explained that during gym classes, students are lining up their shoes in the hallway and on the stairwell because there is no room for them in the existing gymnasium.

“We want functionality with the gym,” he added. And the fieldhouse, which would be about a quarter-of-a-mile away from the high school, is not functional.

Next meeting

With the scope of the high school narrowed down to four choices, the board is hopeful they will be able to vote on which concept to present to the Board of Education at their next meeting.

The members then hope to start talking about the elementary schools and what they want to do with the fifth graders. If they choose to move the fifth graders out of the elementary schools and into the middle school, they will tackle the middle school building. If they choose to keep the fifth graders where they are, the committee will look at their options at the elementary level.

“We should be aware of both so if we change the elementary schools, there are no unintended consequences in the middle school,” member Eric Rios said.

Chair Ana Gonzalez wants to bring in someone who is knowledgeable about the overcrowding in the middle school, like she did with High School Principal Mitchell Combs, to get a feel for what the building needs to accommodate the incoming students.

Bringing in Superintendent Dr. Edward Kliszus is also a possibility as he would be able to answer any questions the committee may have about why the fifth grade was moved to the middle school and then back to the elementary schools in the past.

Thomas Ceruzzi suggested bringing in Maura McAward, an assistant superintendent, to explain state aid and what it includes so the committee knows what to think about when they are finalizing their presentation.

The next meeting will take place after press time on Thursday, Oct. 13 followed by another on Tuesday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. in PCHS Room 229.

Committee members

The Port Chester Bond Advisory Committee is made up of 30 people. They are Rosemarie Barone, Joan Carriero, Thomas Ceruzzi, Thomas Corbia, Susan-Anne Cosgrove, Kenneth Force, George Ford, Ana Isabel Gonzalez, Stephen Greto, Gregory Guarino, Jody Helmle, Richard Hyman, Maureen Josephson, Joseph Lodato, Laura Luzzi, Heather Mateus, Kevin McFadden, Keith Morlino, Chrissie Onofrio, Denise Quinn, Patricia Rinello, Eric Rios, Elizabeth Rotfeld, Lou Russo, Jennifer Saunders, Debra Scocchera, Stephen Simmons, Patricia Sutton and Albert Wesley.

Gonzalez is the chairperson, Simmons is the secretary and Morlino is the alternate chair.