PITTSFIELD -- The School Building Needs Commission on Monday heard about the multiple options it might consider for a new or renovated Taconic High School.
The commission met with representatives from its newly hired design firm, Drummey, Rosane, Anderson Inc. of Waltham, who discussed both general building options other school districts have chosen and a timetable for gaining state approval in January 2015 -- along with an estimated 78 to 80 percent in state funding.
Company President Carl R. Franceschi, who gave a presentation, outlined not only new construction options but others ranging from interior renovation alone to school additions, to demolition of sections of the school in combination with one or more new additions.
Working with projected images of design possibilities and photographs from other school projects the firm has undertaken, Franceschi stressed that "these are all purely theoretical options at this point," but were offered to give commissioners visual images of their choices.
He also laid out a timetable for upcoming stages of the design phase, which Pittsfield is planning in conjunction with the Massachusetts School Building Authority. The authority's project review board, Franceschi said, hopes to vote on final approval for the work at Taconic -- and for the state funding -- in January 2015.
Another point, he said, is that the Pittsfield School Committee should have in April a final list of the vocational programs to be offered in the school, along with supportive information on projected enrollment and the viability of the courses. Although the School Committee last year approved a 15-course lineup, information will again be reviewed by the MSBA, which Franceschi said considers this project aspect the key first step -- affecting space and other needs for the building.
By August, Franceschi said, city officials will have to decide on a preferred option -- such as new construction, partial demolition with additions or renovation of the interior space only. The MSBA board would be expected to act on that information in September.
And by December, he said, a conceptual design including cost estimates would be submitted to the state board for a vote in January. This would not be the full architectural design, which would follow.
In answer to questions, Franceschi said the final design would take another six to eight months, with construction not likely until 2016.
During the preliminary design process, which will include opportunities for public input, multi-angled and faceted model designs will be created for consideration by the commission, Franceschi said. He also showed photos of Putnam Vocational Technical Academy in Springfield and other buildings the firm designed to illustrate the options.
A 90-year-old firm, he said Drummey, Rosane, Anderson began to specialize in educational buildings about 60 years ago and has worked on a number of vocational education schools. However, Franceschi said the firm tailors the building to the site and the district's needs, rather than attempting to use the same design in every instance.
Flexibility is something the firm tries to design into structures, he said, while also keeping up on innovations in education and school design. The goal is a "forward-looking building," he said.
The public will have a chance to offer input at different stages of the process, likely including while the final vocational course lineup is verified and submitted to the MSBA for approval. Franceschi said the firm usually includes a weekend public meeting and makes other efforts to elicit input.
All of the choices the city makes for the project also could add or subtract from the overall cost. Franceschi said the group must sometimes consider whether a feature or expense will be eligible for state reimbursement or would have to be funded by the city.
The commission also unanimously approved the contracts for the feasibility phase of the design, for which the city last year allocated up to $1.3 million -- subject to state reimbursement of up to 80 percent. The Drummey, Rosane, Anderson contract is for $785,000, a contract for Skanska USA, the city's consultant in hiring a design firm was approved at $339,870, and $175,130 of the original allocation remains.