Costs of Renovation vs. New MegaSchool & Reconfiguration (Article 38 Statement to LWV)

Regarding Article 38 on the May 2016 Town Meeting Warrant, Laura Quilter presented this statement at the League of Women Voters’ Town Meeting Warrant Review, April 12, 2016. Video is available at Amherst Media at , and Article 38 is presented at 1:30 – 1:33. (We were each given 3 minutes to present. A number of people came up to me to talk afterwards outside, but no questions during the presentation.)

Text of Prepared Statement

I’m Laura Quilter, a co-sponsor with Maria Kopicki of Article 38, which requests that the Town approve an independent project review of the costs of renovating Wildwood and Fort River Elementary Schools.

Although bottom-line numbers for renovation and new construction of a large consolidated school are available, these bottom-line construction figures do not provide a complete picture of the costs to the Town. Article 38 would authorize a Town-supervised third party to review and flesh out the complete project costs for presentation to the voters.

As an example of what would be included, the costs associated with the proposed elementary reconfiguration, now estimated at $65M, do not include the costs of renovating Crocker Farm to become a Pre-K-1 only facility or the costs of decommissioning Fort River. Also, the original estimates need to be updated to include changes in the proposal — additional bus runs, for example, and the move to a two-school administration model.

Secondly, to enable apples to apples comparisons, the renovation costs need to be fleshed out from a cost per square foot estimate to the next level of detail, “level 2”, which includes a high-level list of projects and costs, such as HVAC, $1.2 million; sitework $250,000, etc.

Currently renovation is listed only at a “cost per square foot” estimate. This accounting method does not permit project-based and direct comparison with the new construction project. It also does not take into account either large spaces that might not need extensive renovation, such as the gym, or items that have already or will have already been renovated, such as Fort River’s boiler.

The additional detail will also enable voters to understand the two schools’ problems, and to consider whether and how to prioritize individual renovations. It will also answer the unresolved questions about whether and why the square foot cost estimates presented for renovation are higher than other MSBA funded renovation projects.

Our analysis of existing documentation suggests that some of this detailed estimation has already been done and an independent review of the existing documentation could enable the creation of documents for the voter that provide this kind of direct cost comparison.

The elementary school project is very significant in cost and even more significant in its effect on our children and our community for generations to come. Consequently, our hope and intention is to provide the Town with a more complete set of information with which it can approach the decisions it faces in the coming months about this and other capital projects.

Because renovation will not receive further scrutiny within the current process, we ask that the Town provide the means with which to accomplish this before we are asked to vote on these decisions for our schools.



    • Laura Quilter

      Hi Kevin,

      Well, that was part of the original idea, and the language persists in some documents. But in fact it will actually be something more like this:
      Two separate wings for grades 2 through 5 classrooms and administration.
      One wing for grade 6 (as of the last public forum in April, grade 6 was combined)
      One vice principal (at least, according to the annual cost savings which list a reduction in vice principals)
      Combined spaces for all 750 students for cafeteria
      Combined spaces for all 750 students for entrance
      Combined spaces for all 750 students for bus loading & car pickup
      Combined spaces for all 750 students for library / media space
      Combined spaces for all 750 students for maker space
      Combined spaces for all 750 students for outside play space (which will be about half the size of Wildwood’s existing playspace)

      So, yeah, there will be separation of the kids into classrooms, and some of the classrooms will be in separate wings. I guess they’ll still be zoning them, although since they want to be able to keep classroom sizes uniform, they will be moving kids in and out of the two different schools as needed for that purpose.

      So operationally I think it’s going to be a lot more like a 750-student megaschool than a duplex. But, yeah, the building will be somewhat “V” shaped.


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