Julie Sniezek of Guntlow & Associates shows the decorative wall to be replaced at Colegrove Park.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The School Building Committee was encouraged to "dig in" to to the plans for the Conte School as the project works to toward the 90 percent mark in construction preparation.
As planning for project moves toward actual construction, Mayor Richard Alcombright wanted to make sure that renovation will be not only done on budget but will include what teachers really need to do their work.
"I want to make sure that when the staff walks into this building, their walking into a building that they not only had input on but which meets their needs," he said. "Are we sure we have done that before we get to 90 percent?"
The architects have been getting input, said Margo Jones, of Margo Jones Architects. Next up will be reviews with the interior designer and technology consultants on equipping the classrooms and integrating technology.
"A lot of 21st century learning is carried out by the furnishings," she said, "and so that's the next step."
Nancy Ziter, a member of the building committee and business manager for the school district, said a core team has been reviewing room needs and that each teacher will be looking at the areas he or she will have to use.
Greylock Elementary School Principal Sandra Cote, also a member of the committee, suggested getting feedback from teachers at Brayton Elementary and Drury High schools since both had undergone renovations.
For example, Greylock and Sullivan don't have separate art classrooms so their teachers may not be completely aware of what they could have, she said. But art teachers at the other schools would have an idea of not only what was possible, but what was missing.
"We built a building with no feedback and it was a disaster, it turned out to be a disaster," said committee member Ronald Superneau, referring to Drury High School's experiment with open classrooms.
Alcombright said he was struck by the optimism of the professors after taking a tour of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' new science building.
"The happiness within that building was really determined by the fact they had so much input," he said. "They walked in and it was really what they asked for."
Mel Overmoyer, of Strategic Building Solutions, the owner's project manager, said he would get full building specs for the superintendent's office and to whomever really needed them to ensure that issues could be found early on.
"We want as much feedback as we can get," he said.
The committee on Monday also approved the latest plan changes and budget costs for the 60-percent mark for submission to the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
The changes include those reviewed at the last meeting and the installation of decorative concrete walls at Colegrove Park in as a compromise with the Historical Commission for taking out the stairs. Jones estimated the cost for replacement at about $55,000 but noted "it's more symbolic of what was there previously."
The submission of plans and cost estimates is the second set provided for review to the MSBA. The city is required to provide estimates at the 30, 60 and the 90 percent mark, the last of which Overmoyer said would be the most important.
"That's kind of when the rubber really begins to hit the road," he said, adding that the committee and architects will really need to hone in on costs.
The project is still carrying at least a half-million in items over the estimated budget. Part of that is for the still unknown costs for the retaining wall on the southwest corner. Jones said borings have shown sandy soil and rock, but it's not known if the rock is ledge or boulder. It was enough to begin engineering for that aspect of the project.
The rest is for upgrades of lights, sensors and other amenities. Overmoyer said those costs will remain until the construction bids are received; that's when some critical choices will have to be made. The total project is at $29,692,594, of which the city will be responsible for about $6.5 million.
"We've been about 10 percent under going out to bid," said Overmoyer of recent construction projects. "It's nice to come under so you can have this stuff."