PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The state has formally approved the city's selection of Skanska USA Building to determine locations for a new Taconic High School.
The construction services firm headquartered in New Jersey began the feasibility study of the current 50-acre Valentine Road campus in October but the state School Building Authority needed to approve the commission's selection, which it did last week.
The company will do soil work, land surveys and other geotechnical engineering work to set the basis for a new school or renovation and addition to the old one. The study is expected to be completed in April.
“This is all the pre-feasibility study. We were officially approved by MSBA last week,” Skanska Project Executive Dale Caldwell said on Monday.
At the same time, the School Building Needs Commission will be contracting out a labor study to determine if the new school will be regionalized. According to Howard “Jake” Eberwein, superintendent of schools, the commission will hire a firm to study the labor needs in the region to help direct its decision.
"There are different kinds of regionalization. We can agree with nearby towns to create a school district or we can let other towns send students here," Eberwein said. "Enrollment is the driving force behind any school building project."
The SBA had indicated last July that it would prefer creating a regional vocational district around Taconic before expending funds for the renovation of Pittsfield High School.
The study will find the employment needs of the area to help determine if the school should expand its vocational education and by how much. A higher enrollment would be expected if the school regionalized and, therefore, a larger school building would be needed.
“The labor market study will inform our school if we will regionalize or not,” Eberwein said.
Eberwein said a request for proposals has gone out for the labor study, which is expected to be awarded in the next month. The state has also begun outreach to the region to get a sense of the employment needs as well, he said.
“We are really working together on this,” he said.
The commission’s labor study will be paid by grant funding and could be completed as early as March, Eberwein said.
Once the commission decides on regionalization and Skanska finishes the feasibility study, an architect will then develop actual plans for the new school. It has previously been estimated that the renovations will cost as much as $70 million with construction breaking ground in 2012.
While the new school is being built, Taconic students will attend Pittsfield High School and when the school is built, the commission will take aim at renovating PHS, according to Ward 6 Councilor John Krol, a commission member. Taconic’s need for a new school was prioritized over renovating PHS.
The commission will now meet monthly with Skanska to receive updates on the study.
Skanska was chosen to be project manager after the City Council approved the commission to borrow up to $200,000 for the position. The state will reimburse the city for some of that cost and is expected to reimburse 78 percent of the cost of the new school.