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Community members toured the current Consolidated and NFHS buildings last May while discussing the proposed building options.

The Consolidated Early Learning Academy (CELA) project is well underway, with the architect’s schematic design (SD) phase wrapping up at June’s end and the development design (DD) phase beginning in July. At this junction, the architects, JCJ Architecture, and the construction company, O & G Industries, each create cost lists that are associated with the district’s initial specifications and the architect’s early plan renderings. The two lists are measured against each other, revised, and ultimately reconciled with the help of the project management that is provided by Collier’s International. In reconciling the lists for CELA, the project, as originally planned, was estimated to be running at 9% over budget, or approximately $2.1M. To balance the budget at this point between phases, a value engineering (VE) list has been created to track cost reductions, which has meant scaling back project scope in some areas, modifying material selections, and noting possible items for further cuts, if necessary.

At this point, at the end of SD, the two lists that were created for CELA were close to each other in most categories, but there were a few areas where the architect and construction estimates were further apart, indicating that more consideration for reconciliation is needed. At the June 30 Permanent Building Committee (PBC) meeting, all key players were on hand to review the VE list. Previously vetted by district administrators, Dr. Richard Sanzo, Director of Finance and Operations, said of the VE list, “We have to work to manage the budget that we have and the estimates that have come back…We would still be able meet the program with this VE list…it would be a little less flexible…but we understand we are still working within a budget.”

Mr. Scott Pellman, of Collier’s International, explained that there is an 8% design and pricing contingency in the budget, plus over $1.7M in VE cuts listed, so “we felt that it was an appropriate recommendation to the building committee, with where we stand at the moment, to move the project forward.” The PBC voted unanimously to move forward to the DD phase.

Of the VE list, Sanzo said that “I think some of these items, particularly the first few are some of the more challenging ones to accept.” He went on to say that depending on the DD findings, if the projected costs are running low, these may be items to discuss adding back into the project. Sanzo was referring to a maker space and outdoor storage addition that would have been built adjacent to the existing MHHS cafeteria; to not renovate the faculty lounge area; and deleting exterior doors from kindergarten and pre-kindergarten classrooms. In addition, there are plans to remove one 1st grade classroom and possibly two kindergarten classrooms. It was noted that the goal was to have 8 classrooms per section, with a bit of excess capacity built-in, so going down in classrooms will still work with enrollment projections, for at least the next 8 years.

One item that was discussed at length is a 1200 square foot glass enclosed walkway that will serve as a vestibule. The space as planned would be pricey, as storefront windows are intended. Administrators defended the need for the space, explaining that it would be an avenue for Pre-K and kindergarten students to access specials and other common spaces without disrupting the 2nd grade classrooms. Another point was that this area may serve to queue students for dismissal. PBC members questioned whether materials could be scaled back, such as using punched windows, which also may serve to reduce heat loss.

Other items that have been eliminated from the plans include a music room expansion, instead there is a plan to renovate the current mindfulness room to create a second music room. More areas that were on the table for renovation in what is now MHHS will remain as is. Skylights will be removed from the plans, as well as transom windows over the classrooms. There are a number of building material compromises that are going into place that will bring down the costs, as well. And plans to build a bus parking lot at the existing Consolidated site are still in the works, but being discussed for possible removal from the project—Sanzo is researching options for buses, including the possibility of First Student handling bus parking.

Outdoor decorative items, such as ornamental bollards at the bus drop off, colored concrete and plexipave, a trellis, and more are no longer in plans. And material swaps such as galvanized handrails in of lieu stainless steel are going into effect. Consideration is going into the reduction of stone veneer.

JCJ Architecture and O & G representatives are currently working on a similar VE list in phasing from SD to DD on the New Fairfield High School project.

The next Permanent Building Committee meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 14, 7:30pm.

By Sarah Opdahl