For more stories about the Andover schools, see the 16-page Back to School section in the Aug. 18, 2011 Townsman.

 Bancroft Elementary School students, parents and teachers will begin to see workers build a new elementary school this school year, with site work beginning this fall and building construction starting this winter.

In January, residents voted to build a new, $44 million facility to replace Bancroft Elementary School, located at 15 Bancroft Road. The current building opened in the late '60s under an "open learning" design concept that meant there were few walls between classrooms. The building is now considered structurally deficient and would need millions in repairs to remain open, officials have said.

Once the new elementary school opens, a townwide redistricting of Andover's elementary-school-age population will allow the town to close Shawsheen School, a choice school in the northeastern corner of town that serves children in kindergarten through grade 2, as well as pre-kindergarten students.

Construction on the new Bancroft school will take place over a number of phases, with the construction of a secondary access road connecting to the end of nearby West Knoll Road this fall, according to Maria Maggio, acting director of Plant and Facilities. When completed, the road will be used as the primary road for bringing students to the school. The current main entrance, off Bancroft Road, will be open to construction equipment only. Delays in the permitting of the new entrance road road from Andover boards have left the project behind a few weeks behind schedule as of mid August, Maggio said. Work is expected to begin sometime in October.

Once the road is finished, workers will begin to build the new three-story, nearly 100,000 square-foot facility directly in front of the existing building. Billed as a lean, green, learning machine, the building will contain state-of-the-art technology to reduce its use of energy, including energy-recovery units that will heat or cool fresh air entering the building using stale air being piped out of the building, according to retired Plant and Facilities Director Joe Piantedosi.

Construction is expected to wrap up around the end of the 2012-2013 school year, at which point students and teachers will move into the new building. During the following school year, the old building will be demolished, according to officials. Once the current Bancroft Elementary School is destroyed, the town expects to redistrict its elementary school students. As designed, the new Bancroft Elementary School will handle over 200 more children than the existing building, according to Dennis Forgue, School Committee member.

This shifting in population, which is expected to occur for the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, will involve relocating to other schools the entire K-2 student population at Shawsheen School, a choice school located in the northeast corner of town. Shawsheen School also serves a pre-kindergarten student population, and a new early education facility could be planned in the future. Meanwhile, town officials also expect to consider what it should do with the Shawsheen School once it is emptied and no longer needed for classrooms. This could be a complicated by the fact that the school property was given to the town under the condition it would be used for school purposes only, Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski has said.

During the Bancroft School construction, the school's popular Dragon's Lair playground — a beloved element of the Bancroft community that dates back to the a first playground's creation by volunteers in the '80s — will also be destroyed, school Principal Francine Goldstein said last week. A new playground will be built to replace it.

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For feedback on this story, or for other story-related inquiries, please email dluca@andovertownsman.com.

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