AYER/SHIRLEY -- The first phase of the Ayer-Shirley Regional School District building project feasibility study is now complete. Slated to extensively renovate and build an addition to the 50-year-old high school building in Ayer, the next pre-construction step is the schematic design phase.
Phase II launched when MSBA - the state agency that has agreed to reimburse the district for more than half of covered project costs - endorsed the "preferred option" forwarded by the ASRSD Building Committee. The plan now calls for a high school only, versus earlier plans to re-do the old building as a combined middle and high school.
MSBA accepted the design plan as submitted for a projected enrollment of 495 students, Superintendent Carl Mock told the ASRSD School Committee Wednesday night. With current enrollment at about 300, that number includes growth potential for the new region
Thursday night, Mock informed the Building Committee that the School Committee had approved the document, which was then sent back to MSBA, as required.
MSBA's internal schedule of meetings, submission deadlines, reviews, inquiries, recommendations and votes in large part set the Building Committee's schedule as well.
Now, the timeline is moving ahead accordingly, with plans in process to hire a "construction manager at risk" or CMR for the second phase of the feasibility study.
Building Committee Chairman Murray Clark said the screening group had narrowed the
Once the CMR has been hired, the stated aim -- if all goes well -- is to continue with the same contractor throughout the project, segueing from pre-build to construction phase.
Besides on-the-job continuity, perks in this arrangement include accurate cost analysis. Part of Phase II, MSBA requires the projected figures in the next round of submissions.
Guesstimates now suggest a price tag of $54-$55 million, Mock said.
But Mock said the hope is to shrink that projected cost as plans are fine-tuned over the summer. The goal is to schedule district-wide elections to consider the project in the fall, he said, followed by debt exclusion tax override elections in each member town.
And at some point between now and then, a community meeting will be held to update the public on the project.
Shaping Up on Paper
At the ASRSD Building Committee meeting last Thursday night, architects from the firm Symmes Maini & Mckee (SMMA) and a civil engineer who just joined the project team gave Power Point presentations that laid out preliminary building and site plans and the logic behind the scenes.
Explaining the interior layout, architect Alex Pitkin said the color-coded shapes set out like puzzle pieces on-screen were much the same as earlier versions, but from a different perspective. He'd flipped the flatscape view upside down, he said, showing how classrooms, ancillary areas, corridors, two-story Common, main entrance, lobby, gym and auditorium, media/library,kitchen and cafeteria will intersect and interact.
Sketches of the exterior showed a simple, two-story structure. Block-like, with windows placed for best light in the right places.
New staircases, skylights and other design details create a more open concept versus the multi-levels and labyrinthine corridors that connect the spaces now.
Cutaway views reveal the interior, which is an MSBA requirement, the architects said.
Overall, the building layout is basically the same one the team has been working on for some time, with some strategic changes, the architects said.
Narrative was even more telling than pictures. The thinking behind interior traffic flow, for example, with an eye to inter-related use of specific spaces, programs and classrooms.
Consultations with administration and staff helped the architects come up with a doable set-up, they said, such as the relationship between the library/media center and art rooms.
An existing wing will be razed first to make way for its replacement, but most of the project is a renovation; that is a re-configured structure within the existing envelope.
Presuming both MSBA and voter approval, construction will continue in phases from its envisioned launch next year to completion in 2015. The work schedule is designed to minimize disruption.
Jobs such as the gym makeover may be done during the summer, for example.
Students and staff will be shielded from ongoing work to ensure safety. A contractor staging area has been tentatively placed on the tennis court, with fenced parking for workers' vehicles and access and egress behind the building.
SMMA Architect Joel Seeley reported favorable results from borings at the building site, including soil analyses. Radon testing inside and outside the building were below limits that would call for a report to the DEP. "We're in good shape," he said.
Testing at the site of underground fuel storage was negative, too. But when the buried tank is removed, Seeley recommended having a licensed site professional standing by.
The engineer would perform soil tests at various points around the tank that earlier borings might have missed and to ensure there's no leakage, he said. Asked if this is required, Seeley said the removal is, and the LSP's presence is "prudent."