PITTSFIELD — Site plan approval for the new Taconic High School construction project was secured in short order Monday in a unanimous Community Development Board vote.
The board approved plans for the $120.8 million project to construct a new high school adjacent the current school off Valentine Road. Waivers were allowed concerning the building's height and proximity to neighboring parcels and athletic fields.
The three-story school will be 50 feet high, which is above the normal limit of 35 feet for construction in the zone, and the site setbacks are less than the normal requirement.
Carl Franceschi, of Drummey Rosane Anderson of Waltham, the project design firm, said the school is being constructed with a smaller footprint but is taller than the current school, and will be constructed in an area with athletic fields opposite the main entrance driveway from Valentine Road.
He said the design and consulting team and the city School Building Needs Commission considered "a full spectrum of possibilities," before deciding on new construction and a three-story design. "New construction made the most sense," he said.
Once the new school is completed in 2018, said Daniel Lovett of Hill Engineering of Dalton, the site plan calls for demolishing the old Taconic High and creating new athletic fields in that area of the parcel. He said the main entrance drive will remain.
Franceschi said natural aspects of the parcel and the current building's location influenced design of the new school, as did a desire to enhance the educational experience of students in a comprehensive high school offering both traditional classrooms and vocational programs.
Given that the plan calls for leaving the current school intact until the new one is completed, along with the existence of wetlands areas and a sloped section of the land, a more compact, less sprawling design evolved during the design selection and approval process, Franceschi said.
But that smaller footprint also serves to enhance the educational experience, he said, by locating the shop areas below classrooms and other space on the second and third floors and keeping the students and staff in a less far-flung space, separated by long corridors, as is the case today.
The new design for a 246,520-square-foot school also will improve the flow of students and staff members between classes, he said.
Board member Floriana Fitzgerald the Taconic High project "has been a long time coming, and I am glad to see it is nearing the end of the road. Pittsfield is really getting a state of the art school."
The Massachusetts School Building Authority has issued approval for $74.2 million in state funding toward the Taconic project. The city has committed to up to $45 million in bonds for Pittsfield's share of the cost.
The new Taconic is expected to open in the fall of 2018, after which the old school will be razed.
City Planner C.J. Hoss said the project also must go before the Zoning Board of Appeals for a signage plan and before the Conservation Commission for wetlands-related permits.