The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, August 14, 2009

Architects present options for Carlisle School project

At their August 6 meeting the Carlisle School Building Committee (SBC) got their first look at possible locations for a new PreK-2 school building to replace the aging Spalding Building. HMFH architects Laura Warnick and Doron Bracha presented a variety of layouts and a timeline which targets a Special Town Meeting in January to vote on $20 million in construction funds. Approximately 40% of approved construction will be reimbursed by the Massachusetts School Building Association (MSBA).

HMFH architect Laura Warnick discusses the Carlisle School building project with members of the SBC on August 6. (Photo by Cynthia Sorn)

The 54-year-old Spalding Building, which now holds kindergarten, first-grade classrooms and special education support classes, was classified by the state as in “poor condition.” Water leakage, ground water penetration and handicap-inaccessible spaces are some of the issues with the building. Last spring voters approved funding for schematic designs for a replacement building and renovation of other buildings on the school campus.

Cost-saving ideas proposed

The design of the new building is underway and the size may change significantly as spaces in the existing buildings are re-purposed. In a move to drive down costs and to gain approval from the MSBA, the proposed multi-purpose room and administrative offices may be moved from the new building to classrooms vacated by the lower grades.

Warnick passed out a preliminary layout of the renovated rooms in Wilkins and Robbins, showing the three second-grade classrooms in the Robbins building converted to a multi-purpose room. Warnick suggested moving the administrative offices to the Brick Building, which currently houses the Middle School art program.

Two sites considered

Two primary areas were identified as locations for the new building. The Corey-Wilkins placement, which appeared to be the choice favored by the committee, moves the building up on the plaza, connecting it to both the Wilkins and the Corey buildings. Warnick presented three different possible arrangements of a building on the plaza.

The second option, the Corey-parking lot placement, glues the new building on the hillside against the Corey building, stretching it out toward the parking lot. Both locations have challenges, said Warnick. The steep hill by the Corey contains ledge, and even the relatively flat plaza runs downhill from the Robbins to the Corey Building. Warnick presented three building orientations for the plaza option, two of which cover much of the existing Spalding building site.

Vice Chair Wendell Sykes, who led the meeting for absent Chair Lee Storrs, noted the project must “respect the character of the site,” including the trees, the playgrounds and surrounding landscape. Warnick said factors she took into account include providing a centralized entrance to the school, connecting the buildings to eliminate the need to travel outside for classes, providing access to all spaces on the campus for all students, taking advantage of natural light and solar harvesting, improving parking, and preserving a plaza-type space as a meeting space for students and parents. When the Spalding Building is removed a plaza-type space can be created in its place, she noted.

School Superintendent Marie Doyle, while liking the idea of connecting the Corey and Wilkins buildings, expressed concern about construction taking place in the middle of the school campus while school is in session. Owners project manager Sean Fennell said temporary “safe corridors” typically are created, which consist of covered scaffolding. He said the tunnel could connect students from the Wilkins building to the Corey, bypassing the construction.

Planning student drop-off areas

Doyle also noted that the transportation areas at the school campus are complex. Some parents drop students off at the Highland School circle, in the parking lot on Church Street or at the Spalding circle. “There are problems with the Spalding circle” and conflicts when cars block the handicapped-parking areas, said Doyle.

The bus circle on Church Street is above the parking lot, requiring students who are dropped off to cross the bus traffic lane. “Most school separate parents from buses,” noted Warnick. She suggested she visit during drop off and pick up times to see the traffic patterns.

Timeline involves MSBA

At the next SBC meeting there will be continued discussions on the location of the building, layout of the new and re-purposed rooms, the creation of alternative plans and a possible review of the land survey. During August and September, the SBC will meet with school staff regarding instructional, security and technical requirements and with the community to gather input on design alternatives. Selection of the preferred site will begin at the end of September.

Warnick reviewed the tasks needed to reach a January Town Meeting. The Schematic Design plan, which includes developing site plans and elevations, building systems descriptions and budget, is targeted to be available for the November MSBA board meeting. Warnick said the MSBA would review the material from approximately December through the middle of January. Outgoing Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie noted the Feasibility Study Agreement, sent to the MSBA two weeks ago, has not been returned. Fennell replied that the MSBA “had a board meeting last week, and that stops everything.”

Concerns that the MSBA will not act fast enough for a January Town Meeting sparked a discussion about whether the meeting could be held later in the spring. Selectman Doug Stevenson, asked about Selectmen support of a spring Special Town Meeting, replied that the meeting would be “reasonable in January but not March or April,” and suggested the group would need to wait for the annual May Town Meeting. If the district receives MSBA approval, the town must secure funding within 120 days or four months. Without Town Meeting approval the project automatically loses MSBA funding approval and the district must reapply. Carlisle has a signed agreement with MSBA to receive 40% reimbursement for approved construction costs. However Fennell said that due the economy, the MSBA is offering a lower reimbursement for new projects not currently under agreement.

If voter approval is received in January, Warnick estimated approximately eight months for development of the design documents, two months for the construction bid process and a construction start date of spring 2011. The committee discussed postponing the renovation work in existing buildings until after the main construction was completed, or working on the renovations during the summer when students are not in session. The project is expected to be finished by the fall of 2012. ∆

SBC subcommittees scope out their roles

Several subcommittees of the School Building Committee (SBC) have met this summer to define their roles:

• The Design/Educational Requirements subcommittee will focus on the educational objectives of the building project, the design and how space is organized.

• The Technical Requirements subcommittee’s focus is on the materials, computers, maintainability and energy aspects of the project. SBC Chair Lee Storrs suggested contacting the school’s computer technical advisory group.

• The Project Management subcommittee will deal with the invoicing process and review of bids. For instance, committee member Don Rober investigated the lowest of three bidders for surveying work, Precision Land Surveying, and offered positive feedback about their work.

• The Communications subcommittee’s role will include meeting with abutters, required town boards and interested parties such as the Carlisle School Association and Carlisle Education Foundation. ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito