During a combined meeting of the facilities and curriculum committees Tuesday night, Board of Education members decided to move forward with the proposed $45 million high school renovation project and have been added to the agenda for their next meeting on Thursday.
The specifications, which add 11,700 square feet to , will be used by the architect and building committee to design the renovations after a referendum is passed.
The state is expected to reimburse the town about 44 percent of the project's costs, leaving taxpayers here to pay the remaining $28.7 million.
At its next meeting, the board will vote to recommend the specifications to the Town Council who will determine the final cost of the project for the referendum question.
Chris Buckbee was only the board member who was undecided about moving forward with the project and throughout the meeting expressed concerns with the additions to the specifications.
The specifications that were presented to the board on Tuesday included the following items:
- with a college dormitory-style lunchroom
- Team rooms, which would be used as locker rooms for the visiting sports teams and athletic equipment storage space.
- Multi-purpose room, which could be used for a variety of programs such as musical lessons, sports practice, community organizations and class instruction.
- would not be eliminated, but shrunk to a 2,000 square foot space.
However, the specifications also included replacing McVicar Field, which is the synthetic turf field at Rocky Hill High School. The field, which is eight years old, would cost $450,000 to replace. It should be replaced in 2017, according to the .
Board member Ronald Robbins had reservations about adding the field that was not involved in the curriculum concerns stated in the to the specifications.
"It could create a linchpin," he said.
In late March, Rocky Hill High School was by the New England Association of Schools & Colleges Inc. Commission on Public Secondary Schools.
John Bedlack agreed with Robbins and was not comfortable with including the replacing of McVicar Field to the specifications. René “Skip” Rivard agreed, but noted that the reimbursement from the state would make the cost of the field replacement negligible.
The board decided to remove the field replacement from the specifications and would discuss adding it back into the plans when it is presented to the council. The boiler for the high school pool, which will cost about $140,000, was also removed. In total, about $600,000 were removed from the specifications during Tuesday's meeting. The reimbursement from the state would stay about the same.
The board members also discussed the multi-purpose room at length. In the educational specifications, 2,000 square feet of the room could be used for storage. However, board member Brian Dillon envisioned the most of, if not all of, the space in the room being used for educational purposes and extra curricular activities and not storage.
“The benefit was that large open format for educational and extra curricular activities,” he said. He felt using the room as storage space diminishes its value to the school staff.
Dillon suggested finding storage space in the building while maintaining the intent of the room, but the project's architectural consultant, Michael Sorano felt there was no space in the current floor plan for storage. Many of the items that would need to be stored in the school are the sports, band and drama equipment in the trailers outside of the school and those items could be stored in the multi-purpose room.
“The storage issue at the high school is a big issue,” Sorano said.
After a some debate, the board decided that the multi-purpose room could be used for educational purposes and extra curricular activities as well as storage space.
Later in the meeting, Bedlack also discovered an area near the gymnasium in the conceptual plan, which is used to determine the scope and cost estimates of the project, that could be used for storage. The area is an old visitor locker room with shower stalls and is currently being used for storage of sports equipment.
The board will receive an updated copy of the specifications this week and recommend it to the council at its next meeting on Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers at .