PITTSFIELD -- The School Building Needs Commission has received input on concepts for a new or refurbished Taconic High School, and on Monday the group began to focus on selecting a preferred construction option.

Carl Franceschi, president of Drummey Rosane Anderson Inc. of Waltham, the architectural firm developing design options, outlined potential limitations of each type of project -- renovation of the existing structures with an addition; partial demolition and renovation of some sections, and construction of an entirely new Taconic High.

Using slides, aerial photographs and maps of the Valentine Road site of the current school, Franceschi noted that the parcel appears large but wetlands areas, slopping land and a 30-inch city water main that passes through school grounds "kind of limit the building options."

He added that "this is why we are thinking of multiple stories," rather than a primarily one-story high school.

Describing three general options, Franceschi talked about an addition attached to existing structures, which would be renovated; renovating the gymnasium and auditorium while demolishing other sections and constructing new classroom space in two or three stories in a new location; and finally, construction of an entirely new high school near the current building, which would be razed.

Among ideas being weighed are constructing a new, larger school in terms of square footage across from the current main entrance and closer to the football field, which would allow the current school to remain open during construction. Parking also would be added closer to the field.

In the partial demolition and reconstruction option, the consultant said most of the construction also would be opposite the main entrance, except for features connecting sections to the gym and auditorium, both of which would remain.

Vladimir Lyubetsky, of DRB, handed commissioners a scoring sheet, which will be used to rank the three broad construction options on a scale from 1 to 5, pertaining to 28 individual criteria.

The criteria include compatibility with educational goals, cost predictability, duration of the project; planning and flexibility, athletic fields, sustainable design, environmental impact, construction phasing costs and durable materials and systems. Board members also are expected to choose the criteria they would assign extra weight in the rankings.

Commissioners were asked to forward their input on the scoring matrix to co-chairpersons Kathleen Amuso and Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless prior to the next commission meeting on July 14.

McCandless and Franceschi said they were pleased at the turnout for a public input session at Taconic High on June 16, when about 60 people attended. The consultant said the comments were informative and are being taken into consideration as the firm further refines the design options.

Students also were asked for input and offered insights concerning the size or layout of the current library, the gym, bathrooms and showers and the cafeteria.

Commissioner Warren Dews said, however, that he was disturbed by the lack of participation from African American residents during the public meeting.

"Speaking as an African American male, I was extremely upset that I was the only person of color there," Dews said, adding that he intends to urge attendance at a second outreach session, planned for July 21 at Taconic High.

The city and its consultants are working in cooperation with the Massachusetts School Building Authority, through which Pittsfield is expected to receive up to 80 percent state funding for the project. The current timetable calls for the commission to vote on July 28 to submit one of the general design options to the SBA for review.

Once a general concept is selected and approved, DRA will begin the final design of the Taconic project. Rough cost estimates for the three concepts discussed Monday range from $60 million to $70 million for a renovation and addition project to up to $95 million for completely new construction.

Franceschi and Lyubetsky said the firm is now gathering more specific cost estimates for the different building options.

To reach Jim Therrien:
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