AYER -- Attendance was about as sparse as it gets at the first of two public forums the Ayer-Shirley Regional School District Building Committee held at the high school, but the presenters didn't skimp, laying out the story as if to a full house.

As various speakers pointed out, there's plenty of public access to the process.

For example, news and views from the forum -- as well as committee meeting minutes and other information -- is available at asrsd.org and a Building Committee blog. And for the next best thing to being there, Ayer and Shirley residents can turn to their cable access channels for a rerun of the forum, which was filmed by both Ayer and Shirley cable crews and will air on local access channels in both towns.

Presentation topics included an overview of the project, which recently wrapped its design development stage; construction and design schedules and milestones; financial information with budget-tracking checkpoints; and groundbreaking plans.

Questions and answers

When all was said and shown, including an array of color sketches showing the exterior and interior of the new and improved high school building, the floor was opened to questions, with key team members there to answer them.

One Washington Street neighbor asked about the project work schedule for the coming summer as demolition of the existing classroom wing and construction of a new one gets underway.

Todd McCabe, construction manager of Consigli Construction, had earlier given a brief description of the 26-month schedule set to conclude in 2015. He said typical hours would be 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, but there might be some Saturday work, with prior approval.

"There will be a good amount of construction activity, including vehicles," he said. But the aim is to stay out of the way of school activities, which is why big jobs are scheduled for vacation periods, and with as little neighborhood disruption as possible.

Entry to the site will be at the bottom of the hill, with a staging area on the tennis courts and separate access to Washington Street, McCabe said. Work areas will be sequestered within fences and jersey barriers.

As work progresses and subcontractors are brought on board, a traffic-management plan will be framed to route trucks to the site, bypassing Ayer's downtown.

A groundbreaking ceremony is planned at the start of the next school year.

Concluding the program, Building Committee Chairman Murray Clark thanked residents for coming and said that if anyone had questions at any time, all they have to do is ask.