TOWNSEND -- As the deadline for finalizing a design for the new high school approaches, planners are discussing ways to balance function and esthetics within the budget.

Representatives from Symmes, Maini and McKee presented potential options for exterior plans for the $89 million school to the North Middlesex Regional School District Building Committee on July 14.

For instance, some outside areas of the school will do double duty. Gardens can be used by students in the science, technology, engineering and math courses. Outside seating areas can be used for congregating, classes or eating.

The loading dock near the baseball field will contain areas for recycling and refuse. "There's no such thing as back of the house anymore," said Peter Lukacic, senior associate, manager of landscape architecture at SMMA. "We're very mindful of what people see."

Using a different parking lot layout than originally proposed would allow larger bioswales, landscaping designed to process storm water, said Erin Prestileo, an associate civil engineer with SMMA. Cuts in the curbing would allow for snow storage.

Construction and maintenance costs would be lower than with traditional storm water management systems. Bioswales have less piping and do not need weekly mowing. Instead, they can be inspected and cleaned biannually.

The plan calls for parking lots to cover about the same amount of land as they do now but there will be larger spaces. Because the number of planned parking spaces is less than required by the town, SMMA has filed for a variance with the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Traffic islands with curbs might make plowing more expensive, said Oscar Hills, the district's director of buildings and grounds. "We're changing the whole game plan on what we do and the cost of snow removal," he said.

Some parts of the parking lots might not have curbing in the final plan, Lukacic said.

The parking plans must allow access for a medical helicopter, said committee member Heide Messing.

That can be part of the discussion scheduled for next Monday with public safety officials, Lukacic said.

Hill also questioned the wall-seating proposed for the plaza in front of the school. The school does not own equipment that can throw snow the distance required by the design.

A final design should not be based on what happens a few months of the year because the building should look good, said Chairman Robert Templeton. "That's just one person's opinion."

Outside lighting will be energy-efficient LED bulbs with fixtures located in the plantings, not in the middle of the parking lots, Lukacic said. Compared to traditional lighting, the new fixtures require less maintenance and will pay for themselves in a little over a year.

New bleachers are part of the plan. A 1,200-seat aluminum bleacher with a ramp leading to the press box will be handicap accessible as required, Lukacic said. Current plans call for moving the structure closer to the track than it is now.

If the track is widened in the future, the bleachers would need to be moved back, he said. The final design could have bleachers in the same location as now, but would require an impervious surface between the bleachers and the track.

Because the school is located on a state road, the signage options allowed by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation are limited, said Prestileo. Flashing lights before and at crosswalks are planned to warn motorists of crossing pedestrians and bicyclists.

The proposed brick, masonry and brushed aluminum sign at the entrance would have spotlights rather than internal lighting because of town regulations, she said.

The current plans do not include a message board. An LED sign was removed from the plans in order to reduce cost. Planners would need to seek a variance to install a new sign with lighting, Lukacic said.

The design development deadline is Oct. 16.