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Hopkins School project generates few questions at public forum

by | May 1, 2024 | Education, Featured: Education

Only a few questions were raised following an hour-long presentation regarding the proposed Hopkins School addition/renovation project at Tuesday’s public forum. Residents will vote on the plan at Town Meeting, which starts May 6, and again on the May 20 ballot — with it needing approval both times in order to move forward.

Last Thursday, the School Committee voted to authorize a budget request total of $48,550,000 to appear on the warrant.

That amount subtracts the $3 million for design and $850,000 for upgrades to mechanical systems that previously was approved by Town Meeting.

Vertex vice president/project director Jeff D’Amico said the actual amount for “new debt funding” would be $46.9 million.

That figure is derived by re-authorizing past appropriations for the Hopkinton High School and Marathon School additions as well as the high school roof project.

Also, D’Amico spoke about possible rebates from MassSave and the Inflation Reduction Act that could range from $1.3 million to $2 million but would be reimbursed “after the fact,” once the building opens.

The presentation showed data and renderings of the approximately 28,000 square foot addition meant to house a lower middle school for fifth and sixth graders.

The scope of the addition work includes a gymnasium, multipurpose room, classrooms, art room and special education rooms, as well as provisions for the connection to a future modular double height classroom addition.

Outdoor work would have geothermal mechanical systems and several green features in the building.

The major renovations include a new kitchen, cafetorium, music room, band room, STEM rooms, small group rooms, science rooms, nurse suite, loading dock and specialized classroom spaces.

The site work would involve repaving and reconfiguration of the vehicle drop-off driveways, campus roadway, parking lots and a play field and courts.

School administrators and representatives from architect Perkins Eastman, owner’s project manager Vertex and construction manager-at-risk Commodore Builders took turns talking about enrollment, design, timelines and budget.

Questions surround CM-at-risk role

Questions surrounded the choice of construction manager-at-risk versus general contractor, as selected to do the new Elmwood School project, which will be named Charleswood.

D’Amico noted that the two methods share similarities, describing how Commodore Builders was chosen following a two-stage evaluation process that included four interviews with finalists.

Subcontractors for things like metal, masonry, plumbing and fire protections all would be competitively bid in both scenarios.

With a CM-at-risk, the bidders are prequalified, their vendors are looked at and it is an open book process, D’Amico said. Vertex has a seat at the table and has a more flexible, collaborative role with this method, he added.

“We are the checks and balances to ensure competitiveness occurs,” D’Amico said.

He said Commodore would be working daily with Principal Matt Cotter throughout the process.

Chris Eberly, Vertex’s senior project manager, noted that a CM “brings value” by developing a plan to minimize the impact and disruption while school is in session, maximizing the summer months for that reason.

Enrollment issues outlined

Speaking about enrollment, Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh noted the building is meant to accommodate 628 students (based on a study), has a current enrollment of 689, and has a 2032 projected total of 802.

She noted the Hopkins Lower School for fifth and sixth graders would free up space at the middle school, which then could be used by high school students for some classes. That move would address projected space issues at HHS in the future, according to the superintendent.

Removing sixth graders would leave space for 321 more students at the middle school. “It’s an easy transition between those two buildings,” she said.

If approved, the project’s “site enabling work” would begin in mid-July to August — with the parking lot reconfigured on the north side, according to Rob Blanchard of Commodore Builders.

The fourth quarter of 2024 would include building the site out, the geo field and site concrete/steel work on the new addition.

The rest of the schedule includes the summer of 2025 used for “higher level” classroom work, early 2026 for the new gym and then moving students over into the new addition while renovations occur, and wrapping up the entire project in August of 2026.

The Hopkins project would be comprised of 74% renovations and 26% for a new addition, according to Eberly.

Not included in the budget is $1.5 million to move modulars over from Elmwood School once Charleswood School opens in 2027. Eberly said money left over from that project should cover the move.

5 Comments

  1. KT

    It’s concerning that this large capital project, which will push the town debt to within 83% of our maximum borrowing, is generating so few questions. It is also interesting that our enrollment growth over last school year was only 41 students in K-12 (the Superintendent noted this at the 4/29 forum) There is obviously a big slowdown in growth here, and this proposal should be sent back to the project team for revisions.

    Reply
  2. Beth

    I believe it’s fiscally irresponsible to come to us right after we agreed to build a new school. 6 years after we built a new one and Center School still sitting there empty. I voted for the new Elmwood replacement but can not vote for this. Our town has water issues, our DPW, Police and Fire depts have needs as well. I do hope the old Elmwood school is turned into added Elderly housing. While we tax our elderly out of their homes we will need it if they want to stay in town.

    Reply
  3. Barbara

    This town has invested tens of millions of dollars in recent years in the school system. Marathon school, additions to Marathon, addition to HS, modular classrooms at Elmwood and Hopkins, and a staggering 90 million for the new Elmwood. And now they want another 50 million. It will be detrimental to the town to carry such a heavy school debt when we have other pressing issues to fix like PFAS contamination.

    Reply
  4. Avery

    Again it is shameful that this project is where it is. Seems to be off of everyone’s radar and is riding on the coat tails of the wanting the ‘best schools at all cost’. There must be a better solution – maybe a project delay or an alternative to this major renovation. At some point we are talking real money without State participation. Is the approval of School Committee the only Town approval needed to move this project to construction? Are there other less permanent solutions to accommodate increasing school population in an interim period to ease the Town’s financial commitment?

    Reply
    • KT

      Agree 100%. A “no” vote is what needs to happen at Town Meeting so that better vetting of this potential project can occur. However, voters also need to know that a “no” vote will not end this project. They will regroup and return with a revised proposal- this was stated by the Project Manager at the 2/15 school committee meeting at approximately the 1:35 mark.

      Reply

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