The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 5, 2010

CCHS Master Plan Committee focus narrows to one proposal


The Concord-Carlisle Regional High School (CCHS) Facilities Master Plan Committee has examined seven proposals offered by OMR Architects for renovating and adding to the school. On January 27, a vote was taken, and option “F” was unanimously supported. The plan would renovate the A Building, cafeteria and lower gym with demolition of the rest of the buildings and addition of core clusters for classes, an information commons, new theater and field house (see diagrams, page 4). The Master Plan Committee will be sponsoring a Warrant Article at Concord and Carlisle Town Meetings for $1.3 million to move the project into the feasibility study phase. On January 26 the Regional School Committee formally voted their support for the Warrant Article.

Two alternative plans, C and D, were closely considered; each would have retained more existing facilities. However neither would have consolidated the campus as tightly. In addition, both were more expensive, estimated at 93% of the cost of building new, versus 90% for option F.

Why not new?

The recommended renovation/addition would not save much percentage-wise over the cost of building a completely new facility. However, it appears the Massachusetts School Building Association (MSBA), which is expected to reimburse up to roughly 40% of an approved project, will not support all-new construction.

Superintendent Diana Rigby reported that MSBA officials have pointed to the Regional School Committee’s (RSC) decision to turn down a request from Maynard to join the region as “a missed opportunity for a new building.” Rigby said that no one from the MSBA had contacted her at the time, and “They certainly never said if you regionalize with Maynard, you can have a new high school.” Rigby will try to get clarification from MSBA, but the committee is progressing with an assumption that all-new is not going to fly.

In addition, there are some advantages to keeping the school on the existing site rather than building elsewhere, as had been envisioned if a new school were planned. “This location is ideal,” said Louis Salemy. “Finding a location for a new school would be very challenging.” A 2005 plan had recommended building on the hill behind the existing school, but had not designated a specific spot. Accessibility and solar exposure could be concerns.

CCHS Deputy Superintendent of Finance and Operations John Flaherty said that, other than the issue already noted, discussions with MSBA are going well. At a January 4 meeting, MSBA officials encouraged the Master Plan Committee to go to the towns for approval of a feasibility study that would complete the designs and schematics. According to MSBA calculations, the study should cost $1.3 million, based on the number of students served. Over the coming months the Master Plan Committee will be busy with various community outreach events, including visits to the Concord and Carlisle Selectmen and Finance Committees and the Carlisle Structural Financial Planning Committee.

Goals, options discussed

Michael Rosenfeld, principal of OMR Architects, listed several considerations raised at public input sessions: the main entrance should be visible, entry points should be integrated from all directions, a connection is needed between the field house and school and between the school and Beede Swim and Fitness Center, the sledding hill should be retained, the solar orientation kept, and landscaping, particularly of parking areas, should be considered. Seven proposed plans were devised, and each was rated for value, phasing, programmatic impact, integration and sustainability. At a previous meeting, three of the seven, C, D and F, were chosen as the best.

Option C

Option C would keep the A, H, and S Buildings and cafeteria, renovating 105,000 square feet and adding 134,000 new, plus a 35,000-square-foot field house which would not be reimbursed by MSBA. Renovated areas would include four “core clusters” (class areas), student support/administration where the cafeteria is now, as well as an auditorium/performing arts area which would stay in the same location. New buildings would include gyms and a field house, one core cluster for classes, a new dining area and “information commons.” Rosenfeld noted that the current auditorium has only 500 seats and requires 750 to meet accreditation goals, but said, “I think it’s possible to take the existing auditorium and get enough seats. You might not like it, but it’s very inexpensive.”

Viewing the 3D version, Rosenfeld observed that the C plan would not bring the campus together as had been originally envisioned. Salemy agreed, “Seeing the 3-D, it’s much less appealing.” Rosenfeld then noted that the real challenge will be planning what to do with students as renovations progress, and said the work could not be completed in less than five phases, at an optimistic minimum of five years. Phasing would cost nearly 10% of the total, making the project 93% of the cost of a new school.

Option D

Option D would keep the A and H Buildings and the cafeteria, resulting in 82,000 square feet renovated, 157,000 new, plus a 35,000-square-foot field house as above. Three new core clusters would be constructed on different levels, with a new information commons, gym areas and field house. Two core clusters would be in renovated space, as would the auditorium/performance art space. Dining would be on a lower level adjacent to the performance gym.

Rosenfeld noted, “This starts changing the site to pull away from the neighbors.” One disadvantage mentioned with option D was that it required the field house to be pulled out at an angle and the new core clusters oriented in a more westerly direction. This orientation would not take full advantage of solar exposure. However, the increased square footage of the new building would make phasing much easier than in option C. Three or maybe four phases would be required, but construction costs would be higher than for option C, resulting in a similar total cost.

Option F preferred

Option F, the least expensive of the three, retains the A Building, cafeteria and lower gym, resulting in 57,000 square feet renovated and 182,000 new, with the 35,000 square foot field house additional. The auditorium would be turned into a visual and performing arts center with a new theater constructed adjacent to the new field house. In addition to the theater and field house, all class spaces, the information commons, the dining area, and physical education support would be new. The core clusters would reside on two levels. Student support would move into renovated space where the cafeteria is now.

Smaller footprint, more new spaces

Rosenfeld noted several advantages of this option over the others. It offers “improved coherence” with a reduced footprint that pulls the school away from the southern hill, providing opportunities for parking or other uses. All classrooms would be new, and a new theater would enhance the performing arts. The theater and field house would be accessible to the community but be able to be closed off from core class spaces. Courtyards are eliminated, shortening distances between classes and making the campus “compact and efficient.” The phasing is more manageable (see sidebar). In short, he said, “There’s something for everybody. It’s the right balance.”

Brian Miller, CCHS teacher, observed, “I like that athletics and the performing arts both get new stuff.” Salemy agreed, noting that in the other options, “Phys. Ed. dominates.” He said that the committee had been asked to provide community access, and this plan did the best job of that. Concord committee member Jerry Wedge noted that option F achieved all the goals originally set out, including sustainability, southern orientation, a reduced footprint, and less perimeter to secure.

Wedge pointed to the irony that the committee had tried to “hold onto buildings thinking it’s saving us money” when it appears a higher ratio of new building can be cost-effective because it simplifies staging during construction. He wondered if F would be viewed by MSBA as a renovation, given the large area to be rebuilt, and Rigby assured him it would qualify.

Fitzgerald noted that MSBA will review all options and “We need to build a case for this.” Miller responded, “It’s way better, and costs the same . . . It gives us new classes, a new field house, and a new theater. Those are important things.”

Concord member Elise Woodward thought the phasing challenge of C would eliminate it from consideration, “You’d be under construction 4 to 8 years. The disruption to the educational environment would be significant.” Rosenfeld noted that F provides the best and most compact plan, “C moves the sprawl from the east side of campus to the west” while D faces away from the valued southern exposure. “F resolves both issues and maximizes use of land,” he concluded.

Wedge made a motion to direct the architects to further develop plan F, and the vote passed unanimously. Rosenfeld agreed to return February 24 with more detail, saying, “We’re not designing the building, just coming up with directions that have some possibilities.”

On January 26 the Regional School Committee formally voted to approve the $1.3 million Warrant Article to fund the schematic design.∆

Option F could be built in three phases:

Phases 1 – New construction of field house, theater, dining area and PE support, all on western end of campus.

Phase 2 - Athletics moves into field house, cafeteria into new dining, auditorium into new theater. Start renovating lower gym to be a performance gym. Renovate cafeteria and repurpose for student support. Build “info commons” and two “core clusters.”

Phase 3 - Move H Building into new clusters, library into info commons, administration into repurposed cafeteria, visual and performing arts into I Building. Demolish existing library and H Building. Renovate A Building. Construct three new core clusters. Move into A and core clusters. Demolish S and I Buildings.∆

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