School board clarifies Holland Hill building goals
Published 2:35 pm, Friday, February 3, 2017
After receiving an email from the Board of Finance’s chairman, school board members added explanations and background to the document. The clarifying information should not change construction plans, board members said, but instead offer information originally omitted.
The plans — called education specifications — provide government bodies an educational justification of a school building project, describe educational activities supported by the construction and direct design. The board added sections to Holland Hill’s specifications, expressing the board, school’s building committee and other town bodies have found the current document somewhat confusing. The plans were drawn up by district staff and former Superintendent David Title, then previously Board of Education-approved.
Vice Chairman Anthony Calabrese proposed the amendment, citing he feared the project, which is to give Holland Hill capacity to enroll 504 students, could stall for Board of Finance approval due to confusion with the specifications on educational purpose and planning. The lack of clarity was “unnecessarily putting this project at risk,” he said. Holland Hill has a 315-student capacity, but is enrolled above that figure, requiring temporary fixes, including portable classrooms.
Secretary Jessica Gerber said while the goal of information in the original proposal may have been to streamline the document from past versions, it actually created more confusion. She said it was unclear to her why pages of background and specific 504-capacity specifications were removed, given that is the end goal of the construction.
Additional sections from learning and educational activities, educational space requirements summary and site development sections will be based on Education Specifications for the recently completed Riverfield Elementary School that detail educational space goals of the district’s 504-child capacity elementary schools and other standard construction goals for the finished product. Holland Hill’s plans had been written more succinctly, in line with some other recent projects, with a focus on capacity deficiencies.
Amid concern waiting longer could ultimately lead to delaying the start of construction, the board approved a motion for the staff to create a draft with the changes ahead of the Board of Finance’s meeting on Tuesday. After the unofficial draft’s presentation then, the Board of Education will officially vote to approve the amended document at its next meeting, Feb. 14.
Holland Hill’s potential cost caused a splash at a Board of Selectmen meeting about a month ago. The Holland Hill Building Committee’s presented $20.8 million price tag was more than $6 million beyond the expected cost. The committee has studied plans and lowered the projected price tag to $18 million, with a goal of capping cost around $17.5 million, still several million above the original plans.
Several board members have been attempting to discuss the soaring cost projection for several meetings, and Donna Karnal said at last week’s meeting that “the town deserves an explanation because the state’s not handing out a lot of money right now.”
Chairman Philip Dwyer said the board could possibly hear from the building committee at its next meeting.