The $14.5 million plan to renovate and build an addition onto Riverfield School was approved again by the Board of Education last week, but the formality was designed to secure state aid for the project planned for a summertime start.
The school board previously had approved educational specifications for the project, and other town boards already approved a funding request. But Tom Quinn, chairman of the Riverfield School Building Committee, told the school board last week that its approval was needed for construction documents so the building committee could file for partial reimbursement on the project's costs from the state. The state Department of Education's Office of School Facility is scheduled Feb. 18 to conduct a Plan Completion Test review and the school board's approval Jan. 30 was needed before that meeting, said Sal Morabito, the school district's manager of construction, security and safety.
Approval of construction documents, previously granted by the building committee, is part of the process that will enable the Mill Plain Road school project to go out to bid, Morabito said. He anticipates the project would go out to bid in April.
"Sometime in April it should be on the road," Morabito said. "They're planning to start work this summer, 2014, and finish all the work by the end of summer of '15 when school opens ... There is various phasing so the construction doesn't get in the way of the learning process."
He said the school district historically has received state reimbursement of about 20 to 22 percent for extension/alteration projects on school buildings.
Philip Dwyer, the Board of Education chairman, said last week that six of nine Board of Education members had cast votes on the project in the past as members of either the school board or Representative Town Meeting. Quinn said the project meets the educational specifications approved by the Board of Education and that the budget would fall within the amount approved by town boards.
"So on time and under budget is still your thought?" Dwyer asked.
"Something like that, yes," Quinn replied.
The Riverfield project involves construction of seven full-size classrooms, which would replace portable classrooms and interior classrooms; adding a second serving line in the cafeteria through renovations in the cafeteria and kitchen; expanding the gymnasium, and renovating administrative office space. Morabito said the school would have a net gain of an additional classroom once the project is done.
Quinn said "probably half" of residents who live near the Mill Plain Road elementary school are happy with the project "and half are not." The neighbors who aren't happy are concerned about traffic and parking, he said.
"It's an ongoing dialogue," Morabito said of neighborhood concerns. "The building committee meetings are attended by neighbors on both ends of the property ... Probably the hottest item was the traffic, I would believe."
The Board of Education approved the construction documents on a 7-0 vote, with newly elected board members Eileen Liu-McCormack and John Llewellyn abstaining.