Master Planning and Visioning:: Phase I – Site and Building Assessments Complete

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Thursday May 03, 2018

The South Burlington School District’s master planning and visioning process has taken various forms since its inception in 2015. Increasing pressure on the schools from enrollment fluctuations and the impending build-out of City Center as well as continued concerns around airport and Air Guard generated noise have helped drive the process along to its current form. A subcommittee consisting of board members Bridget Burkhardt, Martin LaLonde, Steve Wisloski, and Superintendent David Young along with former business manager John Stewart and current manager John Aubin in supporting roles have been hard at work on four interconnected goals, all with the aim of determining what configuration of school facilities will ultimately be best for the long term educational needs of all students.

The areas of focus for this subcommittee have entailed overseeing the identification of upgrades at the high school and middle school as well as the educational value of each, developing a contingency plan should Chamberlin School need to be closed due to adverse impacts of noise on health, revitalizing the district’s strategic plan beginning with a phase I analysis of current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT), and monitoring issues that are currently or may impact education at Chamberlin School specifically. Young is expected to have a report to the board, outlining his recommendations, in early May.

One of these objectives, Phase I of the structural, electrical, and mechanical analysis of the middle and high school has recently been completed. A final report is expected in the next weeks. Rob Fitzgerald of Dore and Whittier Architects was on hand at the April 18 board meeting to give a snapshot of the draft report including the process, site and building assessment, capital improvement plan, and next steps. Fitzgerald identified structural and mechanical areas of need as well as a phased plan of cost estimates that would act as a living document for the district.

Although Fitzgerald was tasked with identifying areas in need of improvement, the good news is that both buildings have been well maintained over the years, especially given budget constraints, and were deemed to be structurally sound. Unfortunately, both facilities are aging. There haven’t been any significant renovations at the high school or middle school for about 50 years. Codes and regulations around fire safety, handicap accessibility, ventilation, and energy efficiency have changed significantly during that time. Some key findings in need of remediation at the high school involved replacing antiquated exhaust fans and leaky air intakes, HVAC upgrades, and replacing the 22 year old hot water heater with a new model that is independent of the boiler. Similar issues were found at the middle school; mainly involving replacing vintage hot water heaters, and old air handling equipment. Cosmetic and traffic flow improvements were indicated for each, including roofs, parking lot maintenance, and safety and security upgrades. If this sounds like a lot, it is, and the aforementioned doesn’t touch upon the recommendations in their entirety.

A Capital Improvement Plan was proposed by Dore and Whittier and provided recommendation for the improvements while considering the “big picture” budget. The plan bundles each recommendation into one of 6 categories, ranked in importance to include health, safety, and welfare, code compliance, handicap accessibility, maintenance/extending the life of the building, energy efficiency, and hazardous materials.

Priority 1 projects at the high school ($558,319) would include, but are not limited to replacing entrances, brick work, and replacing the glycol solution which is part of the HVAC system. Middle school priority 1 projects ($3,713,657) include, but are not limited to replacing the roofing system, the existing front entrance, and replacing masonry.

The cost estimates for all phased improvements (including priority 1) over 7 plus years were staggering, with the high school total coming in at $17,805,793 and the middle school total coming in at $13,768,787 for a combined total of $31,574,580.

Fitzgerald stressed that these, of course are estimates and are inclusive of design estimating and contingency, a soft cost allowance, and project costs, not just construction costs alone. It was noted that the estimates are conceptual in nature and are for comparison purposes only. They are based on current market conditions and will need to be adjusted going forward to account for inflation and other conditions that may pop up such as any hazardous materials abatement deemed necessary; potentially triggered by discoveries after work has begun.

The Phase I report in full is an illustrated, 172 page architectural and engineering study of each facility and has been reviewed by the district’s administration. A hard copy of the report will be posted in the master planning and visioning page of the district’s main website after review and discussion by the board and subcommittee in late April. Phase II of this process will involve an educational space analysis and factor in enrollment projections as well as strategic planning issues. Phase II is set to commence July 1.

 

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent