Tri-County redevelopment narrowed down to renovation, new building concepts

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By Max Bowen-max.bowen@northstarreporter.com

The multi-million-dollar upgrade of the Tri-County Regional Technical Vocational High School is moving ahead, with either a massive renovation or construction of a new building.

A review of the plans was done at a joint meeting of the Tri-County School Committee and School Building Committee held on Nov. 16. Carl Franceshi, president and principal with DRA Architects, presented the three options, narrowed down from eight. Once a final design is decided on, it would go to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), which will reimburse for a portion of the work. He said that most of the shops only needed slight improvements—the classrooms, however, will require more work.

“A lot of the classrooms are what we call marginally meeting today’s standards,” Franceshi said. “They don’t provide the variety of spaces meeting modern needs.”

One of the proposals involved adding onto the back of the school near the gym. It would be two stories and done in phases over the summer, so as not to disrupt classes. The addition would include a new auditorium and separated post-grad classrooms. There would be a new, more secure entrance lobby that would provide better access for the public.

“This would bring more 21st century educational opportunities,” said Franceshi.

The second renovation option calls for a larger wing in what is currently the faculty parking lot. This would replace an existing wing and provide better space for the metal fabrication and automotive shops, classrooms, and the auditorium. There would also be a new culinary arts kitchen and classroom.

The final proposal is for a new school, to be located behind the existing building. As this would be smaller than the current school, it would allow for an additional athletic field. The new school would be a mix of two and three-story structures.

Cost estimates for the renovations are $280-$283 million, and $280 million for a new school. Of this, $140 million of the renovations would not be eligible for reimbursement. Of the cost for a new building, $158 million could not be covered by the MSBA. Alternatively, the school could do its own renovations over the next five to 10 years, at a cost of approximately $165 million. Any costs not covered by the MSBA would be borne by the communities that send students to Tri-County.

No final vote was taken at the joint meeting, and the matter will be brought before them on Dec. 15. The reaction by the communities that send students to Tri-County seemed the biggest concern at the joint meeting.

Superintendent Dr. Karen McQuire said any money spent on the school needs to be done wisely. She added that when the time comes to meet with town officials, the impetus is on explaining why this project is in the students’ best interests.

School Committee Member Brian Mushnick said these towns sometimes feel that the school doesn’t belong to them, but it does.

“The students from their towns that come here deserve as nice a building as any of the students in their towns,” Mushnick said. “We’re investing in our students.”