FAIRFIELD — Planners have shaved several million dollars off the expected price of Holland Hill Elementary School’s renovation and expansion after town officials chided the unexpectedly high cost.

Board of Finance members and Building Committee Chairman Tom Quinn cited “sticker shock” at the board’s Feb. 23 meeting over the original $20.8 million estimate given in December.

The committee’s estimate is now $18.55 million, still outpacing expectations of a price tag similar to Riverfield School’s building cost of about $14 million. The projects are similar in scope and size.

Built in 1954, Holland Hill is already overfilled and is currently using portable classrooms to make up for deficiencies. It is set to be renovated and expanded to 504 student capacity, which is a school built to handle students with disabilities.

The Board of Selectmen said in December that if Holland Hill’s cost was not reduced, it would likely mean pushing off other upcoming school projects at Mill Hill and Sherman elementary schools. The Board of Finance also informally expressed to the Board of Education it would like the project’s guiding plans — education specifications — more specific and detailed.

While the cost estimation for Holland Hill’s renovation and addition is now $2.238 million less than the initial estimate, the school is still set to meet district standards for a 504-student capacity school and the construction project will serve the same purpose. Most of the cost savings are from reducing the volume of the project, both in added spaces and area to be renovated.

Planners took another look, attempting to be “space efficient,” Manager of Construction, Security and Safety for the school district Sal Morabito said in an interview. Among adjustments are plans for a stage at one end of the school’s gymnasium, so that by using a folding wall it can be closed off to use as an instrument room for band and strings. The dual purpose saves space and is not an uncommon choice for district schools, according to Morabito.

More Information

Cost adjustments for Holland Hill renovation and expansion plans

Reducing volume of new, renovated spaces: $1,959,000 saved

Reducing kitchen equipment: $120,000

Changing some surfacing from concrete to asphalt: $102,000

Replacing millwork with shelving in some classrooms: $98,000

Miscellaneous minor adjustments: $10,000

Adding back two ADA-compliant bathrooms to plans: ($27,000 added cost)

Adding back plans to paint all rooms: ($24,000)

Net cost change: $2,238,000 saved

Current total estimate: $18,551,000

The reduced cost is not a final estimate and new information — including the results of an environmental review currently underway — could impact the expected cost of the project.

The Holland Hill project has received significantly more seed funding than past projects, funding two portable classrooms set up last summer and to fund more thorough testing and design planning in the hopes of coming up with a tight, exact request for the project’s cost.

lweiss@hearstmediact.com; @LauraEWeiss16