BENNINGTON -- Bennington School District has hired an architectural firm to come up with a schematic design and cost estimate for a 10,000-square-foot addition to Bennington Elementary.
BSD has committed to an $8,000 contract with Centerline Architects in Bennington to begin designing the addition that is need in order to meet a projected classroom shortage and to come up with a figure on how much the project will cost. Once an amount is finalized in the next week or two the school board will warn an article on the Town Meeting Day ballot asking voters to approve a 20-year bond for the amount, which is expected to fall between $2 million and $2.5 million.
If the community supports the bond, Centerline’s responsibilities will expand to designing the addition, creating construction documents and overseeing the project through its completion in the fall of 2014 at a cost of $152,000.
BSD received eight architectural bids that ranged in cost from $142,500 to $274,400. Centerline was the third lowest bid -- about $10,000 more than one from Jim Secor of MSK Engineering in Shaftsbury.
The three lowest bidders were interviewed by the school board in executive session last week. Chief Financial Officer Richard Pembroke said the board went with Centerline because members were impressed with the creative ideas included in their bid. In addition to an existing proposal from 2007 to build the new construction off the east side of the school where the playground is, Centerline also included two preliminary renderings of constructing an addition around the hallway that connects the two main buildings. Each of Centerline’s proposals also include parent drop-off areas off Park Street -- one of which would connect the to both Park and School streets.
Pembroke said the board also favored Centerline over some of the other bids because it liked the work they have done at Bennington College and they are a local company.
BSD has included $50,000 in its fiscal year 2014 budget to pay for architectural fees assuming a bond is approved. That $50,000 line would be repeated in budgets the following two years as well. Next year’s budget also includes $60,000 as an initial bond payment, which would cover the projected interest accrued during fiscal 2014 assuming voters approve the bond. The first principal payment on the bond would not be due until fiscal 2015.
With bond approval, the expectation is for construction to begin next spring and be completed next fall in time for the start of school.
The addition is being sought because of a classroom shortage projected to begin in 2014 and continue through 2020. At the peak in 2015 the three elementary schools in town are projected to be short five classrooms. The addition would likely add eight classrooms, allowing BSD to accommodate a growing enrollment and give it much needed additional ancillary space as some special education programs at Bennington Elementary are now being run on the stage in the gymnasium and spaces designed as closets.
The school board in recent months has explored other options to meet the space needs including tuitioning students to neighboring districts, leasing off-campus space or sending the fifth grade to the middle school, although for educational and financial reasons the addition appears the most beneficial.
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