School Committee members last night breathed a sigh of relief after Mayor Setti Warren informed them the city's Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) would include costs for mandatory sprinkler systems at newly renovated and expanded schools.
"I appreciate the splitting off of the sprinklers," said Ward 1 School Committee member Geoff Epstein. "It was $2 million of grief we were dealing with."
The school-wide sprinkler systems, which are mandated by a new law, would be installed at Horace Mann, Zervas and Burr Elementary Schools, where the district is adding new modular classrooms. A system would also be put in place at F.A. Day Middle School if permanent construction and renovation moves forward.
As Deputy Superintendent/Chief Administrative Officer Sandy Guryan explained last week, the sprinkler systems in the three elementary schools alone would run the district an additional $1.1 million.
Warren said the project will be separated out, with construction costs included in the $5 million previously allocated for short-term space needs and the city taking on the sprinkler costs in the five-year CIP presented on Oct. 17.
"We operate as one community and one city," Warren said.
During a facilities presentation and update last night, Guryan explained that the costs for permanent construction at F.A. Day Middle School are estimated to come in between $4.3 and $4.8 million, depending on how much space and equipment the School Committee decides to approve.
The less-expensive option includes costs for six new classroom spaces as well as any abatement for hazardous materials, insurance, architecture/engineering and contingency costs.
A more expensive option, which comes in at around $4.8 million, would also include additional teaching space, a renovated west entryway and full equipment for one new science classroom.
Last year, the committee received some designs from the firm Raymond Design Associates. However, the current firm on the project, HMFH Architects, explained their "more efficient" designs last night.
Vassilios Valaes, a senior associate with HMFH, said their designs make more use of existing areas in the building, giving the school more classroom space for the money.
Once the F.A. Day costs are added on to the costs for four new modular classrooms, which was bid at just under $1 million, the total short-term space project will range between $5.3-$5.8 million, Guryan explained.
Although the estimates are over the $5 million allocated for space needs, Guryan said the bids could come in lower. In addition, the contingency costs factored into the project may not come out to be as much as the architects have estimated.
Valaes explained that at this time, it's too hard to tell whether the project will actually hit the $5 million budget mark.
Making the case for more space
Although last night's estimates are over-budget, Ward 3 School Committee member Kurt Kusiak argued that the committee needs to take advantage of adding the space now, so it does not need to add more later.
"I applaud the offer of trying to make this efficient," Kusiak said. "But we have serious problems at Day."
Kusiak argued that the committee should not be "penny-wise" at this time and add the learning space as well as the estimated $200,000 in science equipment.
"We should be doing long-term, intelligent planning now," Kusiak said.
Shortly before Kusiak spoke, F.A. Day Principal Brian Turner explained that with this year's influx of students, closets have had to be converted in to teaching spaces and programs are sharing classrooms as the school.
"We are desperately finding every square foot we can," Turner said. "It's pretty clear that the six classrooms are needed in addition to any learning space."
Valaes added that if approved, the project looks to be done by early 2013, with students moving into new classroom spaces after their February break.
Sokoloff noted that the committee will continue deliberation following the city's CIP presentation and potentially vote on the designs and bid at the end of October.