PEPPERELL -- The North Middlesex Regional High School Building Committee presented its preferred plan for a new 180,530-square-foot building at a community forum at Nissitissit Middle School Monday night.

The estimated project cost is $89.5 million, at least 57 percent of which would be reimbursed through state grants if the Massachusetts School Building Authority approves the plan.

The Building Committee submitted the plan to the MSBA last Thursday.

If MSBA approves the plan, the Building Committee would then begin a more in-depth design process, which would be voted on next spring in Town Meetings. Construction would begin in Spring 2015.

Construction is estimated to last about two years. Students would be moved into the new school in the fall of 2017, before demolition of the old building.

The Building Committee also considered a plan to renovate the existing school, but determined that the new option would be more cost-effective and less of a distraction for students.

The proposed plan reduces the size of the school, which is currently 197,377 square feet. It would feature a larger auditorium and larger classroom sizes.

Alex Pitkin, senior vice president of Symmes, Maini & McKee Associates, which is designing the building, said the design would use space more efficiently than does the current building.

"It will be a world of difference from the school of yesteryear," Pitkin said.


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He said the building would utilize natural light to lower energy costs, and the parking lot would have fewer access points to the road to increase security.

Pitkin also said the plan leaves space to build off the new building for future expansion.

Building Committee Chairman Rob Templeton said the committee interviewed students, teachers and administrators for feedback on what was important when designing the new school.

He said the construction of a new school would place students into the new building sooner than a renovation would.

Superintendent of Schools Joan Landers said the school would be designed to serve the needs of a constantly changing curriculum, by featuring large group instruction spaces, updated science labs and wireless Internet access.

"We're not building a school building for today, we're building it to change over the next 50 years," Landers said.

NMRHS Principal Christine Battye said the current building is not conducive to teaching 21st-century learning skills, such as collaboration and self-directed learning.

"We really do need a better space for our students so they can compete on a global level," she said.

The MSBA is expected to make a decision on whether to approve the plan at a meeting on July 31.

Follow Chelsea Feinstein at Twitter.com/CEFeinstein.