Dear Members of the Smithfield School Committee, Smithfield Town Council, and the Smithfield Community,
While most have learned to be critical consumers of information from Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms (or from paid ads in a local paper), I feel it necessary to address the criticism circulating about the design of the parking lot at the McCabe Elementary School. The suggestions that the decision was made by the Town Manager, that the lot is deficient regarding ADA requirements, and that it is undersized are fallacies.
Our building committee is made up of 15 school and town officials and members of the community. We meet regularly with our architects, DBVW, and our OPM, Colliers International, who provide us expert guidance on a variety of regulations, including ADA regulations, associated with our school building project. Randy Rossi, our town manager, forwarded Mr. Costantino’s ideas about the parking area to the group and should be thanked, rather than criticized in such a public and unfair manner. The decision to retain the original design of the parking lot and reject the larger lot configuration was made at the May 13, 2020 meeting of the school building committee - by the entire committee - and was not a decision made by the town manager. The current design was approved by the RI School Building Authority, permitted by the RI Department of Environmental Management, within the project budget, ADA compliant, appropriately sized for the size of the school building, and fully engineered. Additional handicap parking can be found in a smaller parking area at the front of the building.
Our job as a building committee is to ensure that the town’s funds are spent efficiently and that we maximize those funds for the educational benefit of our town’s children. Rather than using either the wetlands area or the softball field area for retention basins and additional parking, as Al Costantino’s letter suggests, our design allows for the continued use of the field as well as the use of the area adjacent to the parking area for a RIDOT Stormwater Control Plan (SCP) project. This project will include an outdoor classroom to enable students to learn about water protection measures and will be fully funded by the RIDOT.
We don’t have the funds to add every bell and whistle to this project or to make parking areas larger than needed. The building committee will continue to make careful decisions that maximize the reimbursement from the state, which has clear guidance on the size of learning spaces, number of bathrooms, size of gymnasiums, and other specifications. Should the town decide to go beyond these specifications, that portion of the project may not be reimbursable. We have a responsibility to our community and to our students to get the largest reimbursement and to get the most for our taxpayer dollars, a responsibility that is not taken lightly.
Judy Paolucci, Superintendent