Friday, March 11, 2005
Feasibility study committee looks at options for rebuilding CCHS
The Concord-Carlisle High School Feasibility Study Committee continued to explore the needs and options for rebuilding the high school, focusing on state square footage guidelines for a new school, the need for air conditioning, and how to get public input.
Good maintenance, old building
"The building has been well maintained," said committee chair Nancy McJennett at the March 3 meeting. Superintendent Brenda Finn agreed, "The building is close to 50 years old; it's worn down. It didn't get to its present condition due to neglect; it's due to age [and use]." McJennett continued, "It takes a lot of energy to make it work. It would be better if we could use that energy for education rather than making this building work."
Visiting regional high schools
The Committee has decided to visit other high schools with new facilities. Several members have already seen Acton-Boxborough's science facility, which member Jerry Wedge thought "was great." Carlisle Selectman Tim Hult suggested Concord Academy's model of classroom, lab and computer connections all in the same space.
Finn said, "Students in the arts [at CCHS] are not getting the same education that arts students at Lincoln-Sudbury are getting. There are no options for contemporary art." The present school limits what can be taught in art and science, she added.
Providing air conditioning in a new facility was another hot topic. Judy Terry thought that "air conditioning is not easily educationally justifiable." Pat Sinnott, a member of the Regional School Committee, countered, "We see more and more respiratory problems. We should really seriously consider putting in air conditioning. We need to push for it now. We want this as a requirement." Police Chief Leonard Weatherbee agreed, "If everyone is perspiring, they are not learning." Wedge said the Acton-Boxborough building committee pushed hard to keep air conditioning in their plan.
Joel Seeley, representing SMMA, the engineering firm that will prepare the feasibility report, said that about 50% of high schools put in air conditioning. Suresh Bhatia, who works in the construction industry, thought the percentage was closer to 85%. McJennett commented that air conditioning would be beneficial for summer school and summer programs.
Seeley and SMMA consultant Alex Pitkin stated that state guidelines for new construction are 750-900 square feet for classrooms and 1,200 square feet for labs. They expect to use a number between 800 and 850 square feet per classroom in their planning. The state requires gross footage of 155 square feet per pupil and generally that number increases with add-on spaces. The add-on spaces must be justified to the state. Some designs have been 30-40% above the basic footage number.
SMMA will use an estimated population of 1,350 pupils as a starting point. Bhatia pointed out that families will want to move into Concord once we have a new high school.
The Committee discussed ways of getting input from the community. Three meetings aimed at the public were discussed. The first would define goals and objectives of the Feasibility Study. At the second meeting, three possible plans would be presented; one design might be a renovation to the high school, one might be an addition, a third might be a new building proposal. A third meeting would present the preferred option. These meetings would inform the public of present conditions at the high school and try to articulate and humanize the deficiencies that exist there. For instance, the emergency generator only works for three minutes. That's not enough time to evacuate the building. These meetings have not been scheduled yet.
© 2005 The