BERLIN – As plans for a new Showell Elementary School continue to move forward, county leaders this week praised the school system’s efforts to cut costs.
School system officials presented the Worcester County Commissioners with the schematic design for the new Showell Elementary School on Tuesday. Joe Price, the school system’s facilities planner, said changes to the design have resulted in $1.2 million in projected cost savings.
“It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we’re working together,” Commissioner Chip Bertino said.
The replacement of 40-year-old Showell Elementary School has been a cause of contention between county and education officials in recent years. County leaders balked at the project’s $54 million price tag in 2015, later agreeing to approve it as long as it cost less than $37 million. The project again hit a standstill last fall when education officials presented plans for a $46 million school.
Efforts made by Superintendent Lou Taylor in his first days as head of the school system resulted in a reduced cost estimate of $42.4 million and the county’s approval of schematic design funding.
Taylor and his staff returned to the commissioners this week to present the schematic design for the new school.
“Thank you for working with us,” Taylor said. “We would not be presenting this design today if it hadn’t been for your support.”
Price told the commissioners that while reviewing the concept plan for the new school, officials identified certain security concerns as well as potential for cost savings. Instead of a building with grade levels spread out and several dead-end hallways, they recommended a concentration of instructional space around an interior courtyard. He said administrators preferred that to the more traditional pods.
“They want teachers to be more integrated and in our plan they are,” Price said.
He said revising the floorplan resulted in a safer building, without exposed classrooms, as well as a cheaper building because the changes meant less exterior wall and fewer outer doors.
He said law enforcement had been consulted regarding the changes.
“In the event of an incident what they want is short corridors with sharp corners,” he said. “We’ve given them short corridors with sharp corners.”
Price said the building, which will be located in the space behind the existing school, had been moved back a bit farther so none of the portable classrooms currently in use at the school will need to be moved. That will save $240,000.
The changes in layout increased the school’s size an estimated 1,700 square feet, equating essentially to a $500,000 bump in the school’s price tag. Price said that was mitigated by the fact that the school would not have a geothermal system and would not be made entirely of brick. In all, the changes equated to total savings of $1.2 million.
Nevertheless, school system officials are not adjusting the overall project estimates — which set total cost at $42.4 million and local funding at $34.9 million — yet.
“We have a lot of design left to do,” Price said.
He said bidding would take place in the summer or fall of next year.
“We’re trying to get this thing out and on the street when no one else is out there ..so that we have very positive bidders,” he said.
Construction is expected to begin in 2019.
The commissioners thanked education officials for their efforts to minimize project costs.
“It’s impressive what can be done when people put their thinking cap on,” Commissioner Ted Elder said.