PITTSFIELD — Seen as a good omen — not a curse — the city has chosen Friday, May 13 to officially begin construction of the new Taconic High School.
"I was born on Friday the 13th, so it's going to be a great day," said Kathleen Amuso, city councilor and chairwoman of the Pittsfield School Building Needs Commission.
Amuso will be among the dozens of local and state officials that includes Massachusetts Treasurer Deborah Goldberg leading the ceremonial ground breaking that day on the Valentine Road campus. The festivities are scheduled for 3 p.m., in part, to accommodate Goldberg's schedule, according to Pittsfield Public Schools Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless.
"It is Friday the 13th and I apologize to those who are superstitious," he said. "We also moved it from 1 p.m. so not to have it at 1300 hours."
McCandless tongue-in-cheek remark on Monday came at the end of the commission's first meeting of 2016 and five weeks after J.H. Maxymillian actually dug into the site across from the aging Taconic
The Pittsfield Contractor is preparing the open space for the $120.8 million state-of-the-art facility that will replace the existing 47-year-old secondary school.
The local construction firm won the bid to create an access road to the soon-to-be fenced in construction site across the driveway from the original Taconic. The $10 million worth of work also includes leveling the ground, installing water retention basins and building a temporary parking lot closer to Valentine Road to compensate for the loss of parking near the school's main entrance.
In addition, Pittsfield-based Unistress will assist Coreslab Structures from Connecticut in providing some of the concrete for the project.
Additional concrete bids are in, being reviewed and will soon be awarded, with the bids for the steel that will frame the school due on Friday, according to Dale Caldwell of Skanska USA, the project consultant.
So far, the scheduled 27 months of work is off to a good start.
"We're moving along, no issues to date," Caldwell told the commission.
If completed on time, June of 2018, the new Taconic High School will open in the fall of that year, with the existing school being demolished at some point.
The construction will disrupt several athletic activities at Taconic, with the softball and soccer fields out of commission, along with the lacrosse practice field. Taconic Braves softball will call home the Doyle Softball Complex on Benedict Road, lacrosse has been shifted to Berkshire Community College on West Street and track and field home meets will be held at Wahconah Regional High School in Dalton.
Once finished, the new Taconic will accommodate up to 920 students and cost city taxpayers nearly one-third of the $120.8 million, with the Massachusetts School Building Authority footing the rest of the bill.
For Mayor Linda Tyer, a city councilor when the concept of a new high school was conceived almost a decade ago, the long wait is nearly over.
"It's great win for students, for families [and] it shows the community wants to invest in public education for the success of our city," she said.
Contact Dick Lindsay at 413 496-6233