2014-04-04 / Community

Building committee OKs plan concept

Proposal would substantially decrease new construction at high school
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK – The Kennebunk High School Building Committee voted last Thursday to advance the building concept presented to them by Dan Cecil of Harriman Engineers + Architects.

Parameters set at a school board meeting in mid-March put a cap on the high school portion of the renovation project at $42 million.

The committee has not met since the Jan. 21 referendum.

While the committee did not approve the exact plan presented, they approved the concept.

“We think that this scheme has a lot of merit and a very good chance of meeting the budget,” Cecil said of Scheme A1. “The scheme tries very hard to save most of the space in the existing high school, thereby reducing substantially the new construction and demolition in the building.”

Scheme 20A, the renovation plan that was voted down in the January referendum, included 125,000 square feet of new construction.

The revised building plan would require substantially less – approximately 78,000 square feet of new construction.

Constructions costs are typically about 85 percent of the total project cost ($42 million), Cecil said.

“The construction target number is going to be somewhere around $33.6 million.”

The new plan also calls for the renovation of 132,000 square feet of the existing building, as opposed to the initial proposal of using 95,000 square feet of existing space.

“What we’re trying to do is keep good space for educational programs, but to try and do it much more cost effectively than before,” Cecil said. “The project, when it went to referendum had 220,248 (of total square footage). This scheme, as it’s drawn, has just under 211,000 square feet (total renovation).”

Cecil noted that the Department of Education’s standards for classroom size is 800 square feet per classroom, but “administrators decided to keep the size of most existing classrooms the way they are instead of enlarging most of them . . . it doesn’t mean they’re not good for education, we’re just trying to make the most with what we have.”

The size of each classroom at the high school, as they exist, are between 620 and 700 square feet.

The rule of thumb, said Superintendent Andrew Dolloff, is 32 square feet per student (640 square feet allows room for roughly 20 students).

“The 800 square feet would be wonderful for each room, but obviously we have to make compromises here,” said Sue Cressey, Kennebunk High School principal.

The new construction portions of the building concept would be built to preemptively allow for second-floor expansion in the future, Cecil said, “which is very economical.”

Said committee member Daphne Pulsifer, “I’m a little bit concerned that, in an effort to save millions of dollars, we’ll be asking taxpayers to invest millions of dollars that are dependent on sub-standard structures.”

Cressey, also a committee member, said that the planning for a concept such as this has been exact: “The ad (administration) team has worked to look at exactly what we need to the point where we’ve counted the existing teachers and gone through and said here’s room for this person and this person. And I think a key point right now is to find out what this will cost.”

Said Dolloff, “We’ve spent some time trying to determine, within that $42 million, how many new square feet could be constructed, how many old square feet could be renovated in order to meet the needs for 730 students and keep us under the $42 million. In terms of square footage, we think this has us in the ballpark.”

Committee member Jack Reetz, inquiring about the trade-off between renovating existing facilities and new construction, said, “I guess my reaction to all of this is, we started off three years ago, I think in agreement that the basic flow of traffic within the current configuration was very poor.

“This configuration, in my mind, does nothing to improve that. It stays within the dollar amount, and I understand that’s the goal, but my personal feeling is that we haven’t improved anything and frankly this brings tears to my eyes to look at this.”

The committee will go on site visits to Biddeford High School on April 3 and South Portland High School April 10.

Both high schools are similar in size to Kennebunk High School and both, said Dolloff, “underwent extensive renovation as well as some expansion. Those are also both Harriman projects and both projects were locally funded by taxpayers in those communities.”

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