By Katina Caraganis
PEPPERELL -- The North Middlesex Regional School Building Committee authorized Chairman Rob Templeton to instruct the owner's project manager to conduct a civil engineering and environmental study, as well as an inventory of all usable space in the district, to get the ball moving toward either renovating the high school or building a new one.
The committee previously voted to work with Heery International as its project manager for the duration of the project.
During Monday night's meeting, held at the central office in Pepperell, committee members were given a chance to discuss how the process will work with the Massachusetts School Building Authority. They also discussed future educational and building needs.
Sue Lisio, who serves on the Building Committee and is a selectman in Townsend, said whatever decision is made, whether it be a renovation or an entirely new school, everything needs to be looked at carefully and be fully explained to the public.
Lisio asked that every building in the district be looked at for space and that student-enrollment projections for the next 10 years be determined to help determine the best option.
Oscar Hills, the director of buildings and grounds for the district, said during Monday night's meeting that the district is not facing a space issue.
"We don't need more space," Hills said. "We need to make better use of the square footage we already have up there. The space we have is inadequate. Our present high school is worn out."
Hills said the high school was built 50 years ago and it long ago outlived its projected life cycle.
Lisio said she would like to have a document saying more space is not needed to show voters every single option was looked at before a decision on how best to proceed was made.
"You have to deal with perception," she said. "You have to address things in a certain way. No matter how much the people closest to this project know about it, we need to be able to explain all of this to people so they know exactly what is going on."
Templeton said everything will be looked at objectively to do what is in the best interest of the school district and the educational needs of students.
The Building Committee plans to meet every other Monday in Pepperell.
Follow Katina Caraganis on Twitter @kcaraganis.