|North Adams School Project Getting Down To Details|
|By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff|
12:01AM / Thursday, June 28, 2012
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The School Building Committee will begin to "dig into" Conte Middle School as it prepares schematics for the state School Building Authority this fall.
The latest option for the grounds of Conte show elements of Colgrove Park still in place and a basketball court on the north side, where decades old 'temporary' classrooms have been sitting.
The committee on Wednesday evening made plans for a working group to take over the details and report back with recommendations to the full committee. The full committee will meet every fourth Monday beginning next month, the working group in between.
"This is an exciting juncture," said Carl Weber, the city's project manager with Strategic Building Solutions.
But the hard work begins in determining what the building needs and how much it will cost. The next months will be spent number-crunching in preparation of submitting cost estimates to the MSBA by the end of September.
"They want to be sure we have appropriate estimates," said Weber. "They want us to really dig into this building."
With the recent approval by the state to move forward with renovating the old Drury High School for kindergarten through Grade 7, decisions will have to be made on interior and exterior work, grounds, utilities, classroom and space use, parking and demolition.
The most recent layout by Margo Jones Architect keeps the grades clustered in twos, with kindergarten and Grade 1 on the ground floor and moving up Grades 6 and 7 on the top.
Margo Jones said the designs will work around the current walls to minimize structural changes. The classrooms will be on the outside corners — "That just worked really well," said Jones — with spaces for other activities, such as band, technology and music to the inside.
Teachers will be meeting with designers to guide them on what they'll need in the classrooms.
The classrooms are currently larger than the average of 950 square feet but Jones said space could be carved out for specialized activities.
Superintendent James Montepare thought the larger classrooms would work. "We're moving toward three-four learning laboratories in every classroom so a larger space allows you to do that more," he said.
More problematic is the lack of an auditorium. Possible options were shifting the basketball court in the gym to make way for a narrow stage or reconfiguring the cafeteria area to create a "cafetorium."
Interior work will also likely mean complete replacement of electrical and plumbing although the sprinkler system might be saved.
Outside, the designs are complicated by the sloped Colgrove Park to the west and a deteriorating retaining wall by the former dentist's office on East Main Street. The state will only reimburse up to 8 percent of the project for site work, said Jones, and there was a good chance the project would go over that.
Committee member Keith Bona said costs for site preparation and retaining shouldn't be unexpected since it would have far more extensive if the Sullivan site had been chosen.
The working committee will also have to weigh in how or whether to integrate Colgrove Park, parking, outside basketball courts, walkways and the rear path to Willow Dell. Some of the exterior work may fall to state Historical Commission review but much of changes will be for non-original items such windows and the gym.
Another element the committee will have to determine is whether to become LEED certifed (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) or Massachusetts Collaborative for High Performance (MA-CHPS). The building will have to be certified by one or the other, per state law, and achieving the basic criteria for either is not expected to be a problem.
LEEDS is a federal certification for buildings by category, MA-CHPS specifically for schools. Conte has the potential be LEEDS gold certified, but the cost may be prohibitive and would not mean extra points becuase the project is at the maximum 80 percent reimbursement.
The working group, made up committee members, school staff and other interested in the process, will meet within two weeks.
The goal is to have schematics and cost estimates completed by September for the MSBA meeting in November, with local funding approved in December. The design and bidding phase would take up most of 2013, and construction through 2014. The school would open in 2015.