Concord downsizes middle school plan to reduce costs but keeps firm on unpopular location

By SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN

Monitor staff

Published: 06-21-2024 4:44 PM

Modified: 06-26-2024 11:43 AM


While maintaining that Broken Ground is the ideal site for the new middle school due to its ample space, the Concord School Board has started downsizing the building and cutting amenities, bringing the project cost to a tentative $152 million.

This is the initial phase of decision-making that will shape the design and cost of the project. Earlier this month, a Q&A session was held by the school district to understand the residents’ priorities for the new middle school. However, instead of gaining insights into design preferences, the session was dominated by questions about the school’s location.

At Thursday night’s meeting, the board felt that reducing the proposed 900-seat auditorium to a 450-seat multi-purpose theater with adjustable flooring and seating would be a wise move. It is expected to save $894,000 from the higher $6 million price tag.

Opting for a 600-seat auditorium without adjustable flooring could be far cheaper, saving a little over $1 million.

But Brenda Hastings, a school board member, presenting on behalf of the building committee, pointed out that a fixed floor would limit the auditorium’s versatility.

“You lose the option of using it as a multi-purpose room to fixed seats,” she explained. “It’s just an auditorium at that point — you can’t fit the entire school population in, and you can’t use it really for anything other than performances.”

The innovative design allows the floor to be removed at the push of a button, with seating that can slide back to make room for more activities. The board also agreed to remove the fly loft and catwalk to cut costs.

The cost-cutting measures didn’t stop there. Another targeted area was the greenhouse.

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However, not all changes meant reduction.

Instead of sacrificing any of the fields, the board opted to convert a synthetic turf field into a lawn field, saving $615,896. To ensure these fields remain pristine and playable, an irrigation system costing $247,584 was added on.

Jim Richards, a school board member, said an irrigation system is essential for the fields to be properly usable.

“Every single field I’ve seen that doesn’t have irrigation or something like that becomes dust and mud,” he said. “Where the high school team practices at Rundlett now for football is just there – find your couple blades of grass.”

Building size adjustments

The current Rundlett Middle School stands at 164,999 square feet, whereas the proposed design for Broken Ground has 211,000 square feet. Architects are now working to scale back 6,000 square feet to potentially save $2.5 million — a decision framed by Jack Dunn, the district’s business administrator, as crucial for operational efficiency.

“The more square footage you have to heat and cool, the more expensive it is to run,” he said.

When asked if reducing the size to make the building efficient defeats the purpose of choosing the Broken Ground site, Dunn replied, “It’s not just the building. You also have field space that they’re trying to do and they’re trying to make a tight shell to make the building more efficient to operate.”

The new middle school will replicate the four fields at Rundlett, and it’s uncertain if the field sizes will increase. However, as the design process continues, the building size could be further reduced.

Energy considerations were also an important part of the discussion. The board rallied behind ground source heat pumps as a sustainable solution, with projected costs at $18.65 million.

Potential tax credits, including those from the Inflation Reduction Act, could shave off up to $1.3 million to $7 million.

If the project qualifies for an additional credit from the utility company, another $525,000 could potentially be saved.

Solar panels on the roof, canopies, and ground installations are currently under exploration.

Prior to finalizing the ground source heat pumps, exploratory wells must be dug at the site to assess its suitability.

Reductions in Cost

■Downsizing Auditorium: $894,568

■Fly loft and catwalk: $847,000

■Greenhouse: $315,000

■6,000 sq ft reduction: $2.5 million

■Solar (ground and roof): $4 million

■Synthetic turf field to lawn: $614,000

■Replaced Epoxy terrazzo floors with polished concrete: $533,000

Additions to Cost:

■Irrigation system: $247,000

■Abutter’s fence: $105,000

■Accessibility ram p: $483,000

Sruthi Gopalakrishnan can be contacted at sgopalakrishnan@cmonitor.com