Majority at meeting agree: New Taconic High School needed


PITTSFIELD -- The Pittsfield School Building Needs Commission can expect more accurate cost estimates when they vote next week on the best building project for Taconic High School.

On Monday, Carl Franceschi, president of the architectural firm Drumney Rosane Anderson Inc. (DRA) of Waltham, promised "better numbers" for the four options the design team has developed for the high school complex, which include a new building costing upward of $95 million.

During the last public input session before the commission's decision, Franceschi noted the 21-member panel rated overall cost fourth of the top six criteria being used to rank the options unveiled two months ago.

"Out of the 25 criteria, new construction ranked highest in all but four of them," he said. "That's barring any drastic change in the cost figures."

The majority of the nearly 30 people gathered in Taconic's cafeteria to review the options agreed a new building is needed to replace the 45-year-old high school on the Valentine Road campus.

"I honestly think -- if we can get the money -- [new construction] is the best option," said Robert Mottley, a junior at Taconic.

"I don't know why anyone would fathom renovation," added Fianna Toolan. "I can't believe it's even an option."

Next Monday, the commission will vote to submit one of the options to the Massachusetts School Building Authority for review, with final approval from the SBA anticipated in January. The City Council is expected to vote on the scope of the project and funding agreement in February 2015. If approved, the project would go out to bid and the work could begin in the spring of 2016.

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.

Franceschi pointed out new construction is the least disruptive and, along with the option that keeps the gym and auditorium, best meets the educational needs of meshing vocational and regular classroom instruction.

"All new vocational spaces can be on the first floor ... directly above would be the academic space," he said. "They would be integrated vertically."

Last month, project consultant, 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


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