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New construction wouldn't cause the students to be educated off site.

Space Is Top Concern In Picking Pittsfield School Building Project

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
03:38AM / Tuesday, July 22, 2014
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Display boards showed residents what the site would look like in each of the three options.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Space use is the top priority in weighting the criteria comparing building options for Taconic High School.
 
Drumney Rosane & Anderson Architects Inc., designing the new or renovated school, has crafted 25 criteria to decide whether to build a brand-new school, renovate the current one or a mixture. The School Building Needs Commission is now weighting that criteria so that space considerations are the most important.
 
The top criteria as rated by the commission members is space compatible with educational goals, appropriate space use, operating and maintenance costs, overall cost, value and then safety and security. 
 
Even before weights, Carl Franceschi, of DRA, believed building a new school would be the chosen option. As he now awaits update cost estimates, he still believes building a new school in the $85-$95 million cost range provides the best value.
 
"Right now as we stand, new construction is clearly the leader. ... We're still waiting on the final costs so if there is some surprise here and something is very different that we envisioned it, that might change a bit," he said on Monday during the final public meeting before commission chooses between the three options.
 
"It was pretty clear that that would be the preferred option at this point."
 
The goal is that the School Building Needs Commission renders a decision next week as to which of the three options they prefer. DRA will then file the next application with the state by Aug. 7.
 
"This is all looking forward to a September board meeting," Franceschi said. "Within the next month of so, collectively we'll make that decision and submit that to the state."
 
The city also already completed a preliminary plan that included student population and educational plans. Franschechi expects the Massachusetts School Building Authority to respond with comments "within the next couple of days." Those comments will be incorporated into the next submission. 
 
The MSBA will then render a decision in September and, if approved, the city would go into a schematic design to give the chosen option more details including a firm cost estimate and schedule. In January, the City Council would have to approve the plan.
 
In an all new construction, the leading choice right now, the students would continue to occupy the existing Valentine Road building during the construction. A construction area on the other side of the current driveway would be fenced off for the two years. 
 
Once complete, the students would occupy the new school while the current building was demolished. If all goes on time, the new school would open in 2018.
 
Carl Franceschi explained the process at a public meeting on Monday night.
The new building would be in an L-shape and feature a three-story academic wing, which will lower the footprint and give the space for another athletic field. The shop areas will be on the ground floor with academic classrooms above
 
"It's more compact," Franceschi said. "When the switch is made you actually gain some green space."
 
The new-build option led in 21 of the 25 criteria categories, which includes cost predictability, academic needs, classroom sizes and needs, ongoing costs, program flexibility and safety.
 
We shouldn't just look at this on cost but value," Franceschi said.
 
Those in attendance at Monday's meeting broke into three smaller groups to discuss the options. New construction also rose to the top in breakout groups.
 
"There was a preference toward new construction," said Vladimir Lyubetsky, of DRA, of the breakout group he led.
 
Most residents said the option of doing a mixture of renovation and new construction was the least desirable.
 
Residents discussed time and safety of students during construction, ongoing maintenance costs, academics, green building, separating noise and air quality from shops and the academic spaces, traffic and parking, flexibility in technical programming spaces, community access and student's access to walk or bicycle to school.

Tags: MSBA,   school building,   school building committee,   Taconic High,   

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