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Brother Rice plans addition, parking lot update

By Kevin Elliott


Plans for a 9,000-square-foot building addition and a reconfigured parking lot at Brother Rice High School, 7101 Lahser Road in Bloomfield Township, will help improve efficiencies as the school aims to retain students, school representatives on Monday, December 19, told the Bloomfield Township Planning Commission.


Brother Rice High School President Tom Reidy said the work will include an updated student pick-up/drop-off area, and allow for future updates to the school cafeteria and gymnasium. The original cafeteria design, he said, doesn’t accommodate two lunch periods, instead forcing students into three short periods that are problematic for staff and students.


Planning commission members questioned whether the school was planning or making a push for new enrollment, which could increase traffic in the area. One commission member said there are already safety concerns regarding some reckless student driving in the adjacent neighborhoods after the end of classes.


Reidy said the school would address the issue of safe driving with students. However, Reidy emphasized the goal is to retain the nearly 600 students currently enrolled at the school.


“We need to be a more efficient school,” Reidy said. “Scheduling with three lunch periods is very inefficient. It’s a scheduling issue for staff, and students get locked out of classes they want. The motivation is to update a very dated facility, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that I would love to see Brother Rice grow. But that’s not why we are doing the renovations.”


The plan, which was unanimously approved by the planning commission, is part of a larger master plan for the school that involves the plans approved, as well as two new outbuildings near the football field for concessions and storage, relocated energy facilities and expanded gymnasium and cafeteria facilities. The plans also call for the removal of a maintenance building along the north part of the site, which will allow for the infill addition.


Paul Stachowiak, architect/chairman at Integrated Design Solutions, the architect for the redesign, is also a member of the school’s Hall of Fame. Stachowiak said the work is part of an effort to create an enhanced academic area; a common space to promote student gathering; and an update to the indoor athletic facilities. That push started in 2018 as a way to stabilize the student population and enhance their educational experience.


“The goal was to make what they have more relevant to today’s parents and students, given the space they need to conduct their operations,” Stachowiak said.


The student drop-off/pick-up area will incorporate a traffic loop that will allow for easier entry and exit to the location. Left and right-hand turn lanes will be added to the area, as well as updated parking lot sidewalks and landscaping. The student parking area will be accessed through a separate entrance in order to reduce crowding. The adjacent building addition will house a common gathering area.


Stachowiak said fundraising will determine the pace of future improvements in larger plans for the school. The next phase, he said, will require the relocation of the school’s energy plant, then the cafeteria and reconfiguration of the gym. The gymnasium expansion will involve relocating an existing bookstore and stage area to another location.


Planning commission member Neal Barnett said he is supportive of growth at the school; however, he asked representatives to keep the township aware of any significant increases to student population in order to accommodate any necessary changes.


“I would support any growth, but if you anticipate any more than stabilizing the population, I would ask you to present that to the township,” he said.

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