Guilford eyes less costly construction strategy

Wednesday, January 7, 2009 5:30 AM EST
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

GUILFORD — The Board of Education is hoping to reduce the price tag for a new high school by preserving the 10-year-old science wing, as well as the football field and track.

At a recent workshop meeting, the architects for the high school project, Fletcher Thompson, presented a new design that incorporates the 25,000-square-foot science and math area. Previous plans had called for an entirely new building next to the current high school and covering the football field, which had a new synthetic turf field installed in 2007.

The board voted in August to recommend to the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance that the town replace Guilford High School, with a cost estimate of about $112 million. Town officials have not set a date for a referendum on the issue.

Board of Education Chairman William Bloss said there are not firm figures yet for how much money the town could save by reusing the science wing — which was added in 1998 — but that the amount would be “significant.”

“The board has expressed a view for months that we wanted some definitive answer about the practicality of using the existing science wing as classroom space in a new facility,” Bloss said. “I’m pleased to say that the architects believe that would be cost effective and reasonable and practical.”

The science and math portion of the high school is a two-story structure that includes classroom and laboratory space. Bloss said that there would be some costs associated with reusing the area, such as connecting its heating system to the new building, but the potential savings would outweigh costs.

In recent months, board members have been reviewing educational specifications — such as the number and size of classrooms — for the new facility with Superintendent Thomas Forcella. Bloss said that Forcella is currently recommending a building of about 225,000 square feet, an increase of about 39,000 square feet over the current high school.

The board voted unanimously at last month’s meeting to move forward with the plans that use the existing space in the new building.

“The cost of using that space in a new design is millions of dollars less than building a new space,” Bloss said. “I am very optimistic that any future designs will take that wing into account, which will lead to significant savings with no significant reduction in quality of the space.”

The Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance have not yet voted on the proposal for a new high school. Bloss said he does not expect a referendum to take place before May or June.

The original portion of the high school was built in 1958 and the building has problems with air quality, security, energy efficiency and a lack of space. A Community Task Force on School Facilities met for about four years to discuss the district’s school buildings before recommending last year that the district replace both Guilford High School and Elisabeth C. Adams Middle School. A different committee is now meeting to discuss further questions about the middle school while work proceeds with the high school.

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