The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 10, 2010

MSBA Chairman gives verbal green light to major CCHS renovation

As a result of a site visit by state officials on August 27, the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School (CCHS) Building Committee anticipates greater state support for the proposed high school improvement project. The high school renovation is expected to move from the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s (MSBA) repair list to their renovation list after State Treasurer and MSBA Chairman Tim Cahill spoke following a tour of the campus last week. Regional School Committee member and CCHS Building Committee member Jerry Wedge said, “[Cahill] was gracious and understanding of all the work we have done…He agreed with what we were doing and said we have done the work we needed to do to convince him.”

It is expected that CCHS will be approved for a major renovation at the next MSBA Board Meeting being held on September 29. Until then, not much can be done by the CCHS Building Committee. The scope of the project must be defined before an Owners Project Manager can be hired, which is the first step in starting the feasibility study. Both towns voted funds for a Feasibility Study and Schematic Design at their respective spring Town Meetings.

School Superintendent Diana Rigby had planned to meet with MSBA Executive Director Katherine Craven to further discuss state support for a major renovation of the school, but Craven went one better and arranged for a site visit and invited Cahill to come along. State representative Cory Atkins joined the group and School Committee members Louis Salemy and Jerry Wedge acted as tour guides.

The group swelled to 16 as Carlisle Mosquito, Concord Journal and CCTV reporters jockeyed around to record reactions, especially from Cahill. They proceeded through the cafeteria, science lab, auditorium and gymnasium, and then the entourage went outside on a beautiful sunny day and circled the entire building complex, pausing briefly near the athletic fields to watch the girl’s cross-country team sprint by. After almost an hour, Cahill and the group returned back to the cafeteria and he proceeded to hold court as everyone crowded around him.

While his remarks were generally favorable, Cahill recalled Newton North High School, the most expensive high school in Massachusetts – an almost $200 million facility that features an indoor swimming pool, state-of-the-art vocational education workshops, a glass-walled cafeteria, a restaurant, and an architecturally trendy zigzag shape. “Just because you can afford it doesn’t mean you should build it,” said Cahill. “It’s not fair to the taxpayer – but we also want something that will last for 50 years.”

After asking a few last minute questions, Cahill concluded, “I think you’ve done your homework. I look forward to moving toward feasibility in September.”

When reached by phone after the tour of CCHS, Regional School Committe Chair Louis Salemy, said, “It is really great that Cahill came out here. Having MSBA as your partner means you’re going to get something very nice, very functional and very affordable. We will try to get things streamlined once we get notification…This is a partnership with MSBA. Decisions will be made jointly.”

Once a month, individuals from the Boards of Selectmen, Finance Committees, Regional School Committee and town administrators of both Concord and Carlisle will meet with Rigby and Deputy Superintendent of Finance and Operations John Flaherty. Salemy explained that affordability of this project will be discussed at these meetings. These meetings will be open to the public. In addition, Salemy plans to hold monthly meetings in Carlisle to explain decisions made over the month and status of the project. He said, “I want decisions to be out in the open.”

Salemy updated the Selectmen at their meeting on September 7 and provided the following preliminary timetable:

End of September: MSBA to formally vote (whether to change CCHS from the “repair” category); CCHS Building Committee to advertise for Owner’s Project Manager (OPM)

End of November:Building Committee to select OPM and seek receive MSBA approval

End of December: Building Committee and OPM to advertise for designer

End of February: Select designer

End of April: Review Master Plan and complete Feasibility Study

End of May: Seek MSBA approval for direction

End of August: Proceed to Schematic Design

September: Seek MSBA approval of Scope and Budget

November: Special Town Meeting

The next CCHS Building Committee meeting will be Wednesday, October 13.

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