Key vote nears on Taconic High School's future


PITTSFIELD -- As a key vote nears on the future of Taconic High School, project designers are cautiously leaning toward a mostly or all new building on Valentine Road.

On Monday, Carl Franceschi, president of the architectural firm Drumney Rosane Anderson Inc. (DRA) of Waltham, went over the 25 criteria the city School Buildings Needs Commission will use to rank the four options unveiled two months ago.

"Based purely on then the bottom line, new construction is coming out ahead on the scorecard, before we weigh [the criteria,]" he told the commission.

In two weeks, the 21-member panel will vote to submit one of the options to the Massachusetts School Building Authority for review, with final approval from the state agency anticipated in January. The City Council is expected to vote on the scope of the project and funding agreement in February 2015.

Project consultant Skanska USA urged the commission to choose wisely.

"This is the most challenging part -- picking an option for the next 50 years," said Dale Caldwell, project executive for Skanska USA. "Just because you're getting 80 percent reimbursement [from the SBA], you don't necessarily pick the most expensive option."

Next week, city residents get to weigh in on the four different visions of how to expand and improve the school. The second of two public input sessions is scheduled for Monday, 6:30 p.m. in Taconic's cafeteria. The session will focus on the four options the design team has developed for the high school complex, which include a new building costing upward of $95 million.

The June meeting drew a crowd of about 60 people, school officials hope to triple the attendance for Monday's meeting.

"We would love to get 200 people or more to the point we have to turn people away," said Pittsfield Public Schools Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless. "This impacts parents of children from all schools in the city."

The two review meetings are part of the ongoing feasibility study jointly conducted by Pittsfield and the SBA to determine which options are educationally and financially sound.

The first proposal features basic repairs and upgrades, ranging in cost between from $25 million to $45 million. But that plan doesn't address educational improvements needed at Taconic, according to DRA officials.

The renovation and expansion concept calls for one- and two-story additions between the existing school and Valentine Road -- with an estimated cost between $60 million and $70 million.

The third scenario, with an expected price tag of $80 million to $90 million, involves erecting a three-story academic/vocational building across from Taconic's main entrance. Except for the gymnasium and auditorium, the rest of the existing school would be demolished and what's left would be renovated and linked to the new building.

The fourth option -- and most expensive at $85 million to $95 million -- calls for a completely new school, including the three-story academic/vocational building, which would benefit Taconic's athletic programs.

Last month, Skanska USA submitted the four proposals and the rest of the preliminary design information to the SBA. The preliminary design phase includes details about student enrollment and curriculum, which will be used to ensure the scope of the project is in line with the school's programs.

In early June, the commission approved the preliminary design phase, including an educational plan listing the 12 vocational and technology programs at Taconic. The Pittsfield School Committee finalized the plan in late May.

To reach Dick Lindsay:,
or (413) 496-6233

What's next

The Pittsfield School Building Needs Commission will meet the next two Mondays regarding the options for a building project on the Taconic High School campus.

n July 21, 6;30 p.m. at Taconic. Public review of the four proposed scenarios for a new or refurbished high school on Valentine Road.

n July 28, 5:15 p.m., Fourth floor Eagle Building, 75 South Church St. Commission to vote on option to be forwarded to the Massachusetts School Building Authority for review and approval.


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