High school project now in design phase

State to share cost; local votes due in fall

By Jennifer Fenn Lefferts
Globe Correspondent / August 7, 2011

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Plans for a new Concord-Carlisle Regional High School are moving on to a more detailed design phase, and officials are preparing to bring the plan before voters for final approval in November.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority’s board of directors voted to move into the schematic design phase on July 27, the next major step in the process, officials said.

“This is a very exciting stage in the MSBA process,’’ state Treasurer Steven Grossman, the chairman of the authority’s board, said in a statement. “The schematic designs that will be produced will give us our first look at the improved Concord-Carlisle Regional High School. They will help us narrow the scope and budget of the project so that we can be sure the final product is efficient, sustainable, and affordable.’’

A specific estimate is still in the works, but construction is expected to cost about $75 million. The district’s reimbursement rate from the state is 31 percent, but could be higher if it meets certain environmental goals.

Officials in Concord and Carlisle said they are pleased with the progress, and are working to put together the final documents before residents vote on the construction funds in separate Town Meeting sessions.

“We’re on schedule, moving forward with it,’’ said Elise Woodward, chairwoman of Concord’s Board of Selectmen. “It’s exciting - it’s a big project.’’

The MSBA and the regional district will now collaborate to produce detailed renderings to determine the exact scope and budget of the project.

In a letter to the Concord-Carlisle district’s superintendent, Diana Rigby, the executive director of the MSBA said the district needs to move quickly in order to meet the November time line. MSBA executive director Katherine Craven said the district must work with the project manager and designer to submit the new information, along with the anticipated design and construction schedule.

Karla Johnson, cochairwoman of the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School Building Committee, said officials plan to submit updated information by Friday. The state agency is expected to vote on the project at its meeting next month, paving the way for the November votes in Concord and Carlisle. Both towns need to approve the funding in order for the long-awaited project to move forward.

Johnson, a resident of Carlisle, said she thinks residents support the idea of a new high school but are worried about the price tag.

“I think there’s a lot of concern about the cost being affordable,’’ she said.

Woodward said her town also wants to make sure the costs are kept under control.

“I think residents are convinced we need a new high school and are cautious about the cost of that high school,’’ Woodward said. “I think we’re on a good path. If we can balance a budget with our design aspirations, that would be wonderful.’’

According to the MSBA, the agreed-upon design calls for a building that can accommodate 1,225 students in grades 9 through 12.

Johnson said the new school will be four stories tall and be built behind the existing school on Walden Street. The lower two floors will house the auditorium, gym, cafeteria, and library, while the upper two floors will have classrooms.

The committee considered several options, including renovations to the existing school, but new construction made the most sense, Johnson said.

She said cost and educational needs played a key role in deciding to move forward with new construction over renovation. She said renovation is more costly and the current building has many design flaws that make it difficult to meet the desired educational goals.

“To renovate the existing building, it would not have met the educational programming,’’ Johnson said.

According to the district’s statement of interest to the Mass. School Building Authority, the space is a particular problem for the school’s science, arts, and special education programs.

The school has 17 sections of chemistry divided among four classrooms while sharing two labs; teachers improvise by using mobile carts to move demonstration materials from classroom to classroom. Physics lab experiments are conducted in the hallways because only two classrooms are equipped to handle them. Also, the high school does not have a biology lab due to inadequate space.

The building is also 50 years old and is in need of a new roof, windows, and lights.

Renovating the building also would have meant a longer construction time, and a need to provide space for students while the work was being done with classes in session, Johnson said.

Jennifer Fenn Lefferts can be reached at

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