TOWNSEND -- Every morning and afternoon, hundreds of students, teachers and others arrive and depart from the high school.
Planners and public safety officials are working to ensure their safety at the new high school.
Two curb cuts from Route 119 and another from Proctor Road are planned to allow buses and other vehicles in and out safely during high-use times. Buses will have different routes for pick-up and drop-off. Other vehicles will use the same pattern both morning and afternoon.
The North Middlesex Regional Building Committee opted for a bus traffic plan that prevents buses from crossing a pedestrian way during pick-ups. They considered options with design planners during a Aug. 25 meeting.
The buses will wait in a lot between the new building and Route 119. The drivers will face the roadway and exit onto the state road.
The committee rejected an alternative plan calling for the buses to travel around the back of the school on a maintenance and public safety road to reach the staging area.
"I'd rather not go around the building," said Chairman Robert Templeton. "Just get away from using that as a roadway. Once buses use it, eventually everybody does."
Using the road in back of the building could be a safety hazard. Students might cross it as the buses are coming in, said Oscar Hills, the district's director of buildings and grounds.
Gates at the ends of the road leading around the school will prevent unauthorized use, said Peter Lukacic, senior associate and manager of landscape architecture at Symmes, Maini and McKee.
If the committee opted to use the road for buses, electronic controls would be needed to open the gates. Other options exist to allow access for public safety vehicles.
Buses will drop students off at the front door in the morning. Parents will be able to drop students off in the parking lot immediately in front of the bus drop-off spot.
The state made a strong recommendation for security and student access, Hills said. "Make sure the front door is where they're coming in."
The buses come in and out of the grounds before most parents arrive, Lukacic said. There will be some parent interaction with the buses but the parents will adapt to the bus traffic quickly.
Parents transporting children will be able to enter and leave the grounds from both roads.
Public safety officials will need to approve the routing, said Peter Collins, senior associate at Heery, and the project manager.
At a meeting in July, they had been told that buses would go around the back of the building.
In other high school planning news, the design plan is said to include a space for a greenhouse for the service-learning students and the science, technology, engineering and math programs.
The service-learning club received a $20,000 grant from the Lowell Community Foundation to install the greenhouse, said Ray Kane, faculty advisor for the club. The students' goal for the greenhouse is to have a four-season, self-sufficient building that does not require gas or propane to heat.
The students researched and found a geodesic design with solar panels that open and close for temperature control. The budget will also cover a 50-gallon fish tank for hydroponics, Kane said.
"Having a greenhouse is great, but if you can't have anything in the greenhouse, that's a whole other story," he said.
The building design includes a cement pad and power outlet for the building, said Alex Pitkin, principal, senior vice president at SMMA, "It won't be a deal-breaker."