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Hopkins addition takes center stage at School Committee meeting

by | Oct 6, 2023 | Education, Featured: Education

An overview of the proposed Hopkins School addition on Thursday brought the School Committee up to date on the design work done so far to expand the 78,000-square-foot building originally intended for 628 students.

Dawn Guarriello, principal designer from architectural firm Perkins Eastman, noted the plan is meant to accommodate a forecasted 802 students in Grades 5-6. (That grade configuration is assuming a new Elmwood School is approved to house Grades 2-4.)

She said the 25,000-square-foot addition would include a gym, expanded cafeteria, classrooms, art/music space and five modulars intended to be brought over from Elmwood School once that project is done.

Guarriello said designers chose an option where the existing gym becomes the expanded cafeteria; where a large room that can be divided would hold band, chorus and orchestra classes as well as general music; and where additional classrooms, including an intensive special education room, would be added.

There would be a 3,000-square-foot gym along with a multi-purpose gym, she said.

She described how renovations can be deemed “extensive,” such as demolishing one area to transform it into a new purpose; “medium,” such as renovations to corridors, new ceilings and options for flooring; and “light” for things like painting.

The designer said most of the exterior would use field (red) brick, and other portions would have an orange brick and darker brick base to blend in with what exists.

HVAC options outlined

Grayson Woods, representing CMTA, gave a presentation about HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) systems, narrowing it down to three possibilities: geothermal, boiler/cooling tower or reverse cycle chiller.

He said all systems use water-source heat pumps operating off a two-pipe water loop.

Woods said the 100% geothermal option was chosen because it is “cost-effective, efficient and maintainable.”

A key, Woods said, is that this option allows for expansion and flexibility.

The estimated $2.9 million cost qualifies for Inflation Reduction Act reimbursement, Woods added.

School Committee chair Nancy Cavanaugh noted an Annual Town Meeting vote is planned next year for the Hopkins project. She said this project is different from others done by the town that are led by a building committee.

“I want to make sure we’re cross-sectional with boards in town and able to bring the town on board the way we are trying to do with the Elmwood School project,’’ she said.

Cavanaugh added that after Special Town Meeting in November, when the Elmwood replacement proposal gets a vote, the committee should look for opportunities to get the public involved and invested in the Hopkins addition plan.

Jeff D’Amico, Vertex vice president, said the project is in the middle of the design phase and focused on information gathering at this point. More precise cost estimates are likely to be reported in November, he said.

The timeline has schematic design and development, permitting and construction documents into the third quarter of 2024.

If approved, construction is anticipated to take 22-28 months and be completed by December 2026.

Selection committee approved

In a related matter, the committee voted to approve the formation of a Construction Manager Selection Committee for the Hopkins lower middle school project.

The purpose of the committee will be to manage the construction manager process as well as the subcontractor prequalification process. In the latter case, two additional representatives will join from the CM (construction manager) team.

The board will be comprised of Tim Persson, facility director, and Susan Rothermich, finance director, for the school district; Jeff D’Amico, vice president, and Chris Eberly, senior project manager, from Vertex; Dan Colli, architect project manager, and Dawn Guarriello, principal designer, from Perkins Eastman.

School groups’ travel requests accepted

The School Committee approved several requests for travel by school organizations.

These trips include the Business Professionals of America attending the state leadership conference in Norwood from March 2-3 and the national event in Chicago from May 10-14.

Also, the Hopkinton High School Robotics team was authorized to travel to Bridgeport, Connecticut, from Feb. 25-27 for a New England event and Dallas from April 24-27 for the Worlds Competition.

The Hopkinton Middle School group also will compete at the world competition in Dallas from May 1-3.

Finally, the boys varsity hockey team was given approval to attend the Fairleigh Dickinson Hockey Tournament on Martha’s Vineyard from Feb. 17-18.

Policies discussed

In other business, the committee talked about changes to some policies, including the allowance of obscenities during the public comment period as the result of a review of litigation in Massachusetts by the state’s Association of School Committees.

Unless the comment is a threat or directly incites violence, speech cannot be terminated, according to the ruling.

The policy also noted people who speak are supposed to sign in beforehand with contact information. Cavanaugh said this aspect was put in the policy because “back and forth” discussion with committee members is not allowed during the comment period.

“It feels unnatural not to give something back,” Cavanaugh said, noting the idea behind the sign-in was so the committee could provide follow-up and information to the speakers.

A review of a MASC policy regarding home-schooling brought to light a statement that homeschooled students could receive a high school diploma from the district.

Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh said diplomas are earned only by students who complete the high school’s coursework and not by students who learn at home for those four years. As a result, that statement was slated to be omitted.

The board will revisit the policies for votes in the future.

Finally, the School Committee voted to reinstate a $6,500 stipend for webmaster services.

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