WATERVILLE — The Planning Board this week got a first look at a proposed 5,000-square-foot kindergarten classroom addition to the George J. Mitchell School that is intended to provide more space for children and staff during the coronavirus pandemic.

Waterville Public Schools budgeted $1.2 million for the elementary school project at 58 Drummond Ave., but schools Superintendent Eric Haley said prior to Tuesday’s board meeting that he expects that cost to increase. The project would be funded using federal COVID-19 relief aid, he said.

“We have eight very small kindergarten classrooms,” Haley said. “We have never been able to socially distance in those classrooms. It’s very difficult to keep them (children) at three feet and there’s no way we can do it with the eight classrooms.”

The expansion plan calls for renovating the classrooms and converting them into six classrooms that would be larger than the current ones, he said.

“We’re going from classrooms of 700 square feet to 1,100 square feet,” Haley said. “We’re going to take the guts out of all eight classrooms and reconstruct internal walls to have six classrooms.”

An addition would also be built onto the front of the school for 2 1/2 classrooms that would abut the connector hallway between the Mitchell School and Educare Central Maine, an early childhood education program that opened about 10 years ago. That connector was built when Educare itself was constructed so that Educare students could access resources and facilities at Mitchell such as the library, according to Haley. The half-classroom would be 460 square feet and used for one-on-one sessions, technology use and other purposes.

A.E. Hodsdon Consulting Engineers of Waterville designed the expansion project. Jeff Allen, representing A.E. Hodsdon, told the board Tuesday that the plan calls for building a new corridor between the buildings but part of the current corridor would be maintained.

Haley said he hopes construction will start in February and be completed in the summer.

“It will be ready for fall,” he said.

The number of kindergartners at the Mitchell School varies but this year there are about 145. The construction work would not be disruptive to school activities because the work to be done starting in February would be outdoor ground and foundation work for the 2 1/2 classrooms at the front of the building, Haley said. Work in the eight classrooms inside the school would be done after children leave school for the summer.

The Planning Board had little discussion on the school plans and no one from the public asked questions.

City Planner Ann Beverage said last week that the developer must notify abutters before the next meeting at which the proposal is discussed.

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