Officials from the Freeport area school district could team up with a familiar architectural firm to develop a master plan for the high school improvements.
School principals and administrators observed a presentation from the HHSDR Architects / Engineers at Thursday night’s school board meeting.
This is the same company that worked at Freeport College and designed upgrades to its elementary schools in recent years.
Their presence at the meeting was requested earlier this year to discuss a new high school air conditioning system, which district officials have identified as a necessity in recent months.
District officials plan to discuss the proposal further at the school board’s Nov. 4 workshop and may put it to a vote at its Nov. 11 meeting.
Part of the project could be funded through federal emergency relief funds for covid-19 elementary and secondary schools.
Superintendent Ian Magness said there is about $ 1.3 million in ESSER funds for the district to spend by September 2024, and just over $ 600,000 is allocated for high school air conditioning.
The remainder will be allocated to other covid relief efforts, although Magness has said he expects the total AC project to cost at least $ 1 million.
Architect J. Green Hayden spoke about the importance of planning for the future and not just a project.
“As you all know, the high school is a few years old and the building itself shows some wear and tear,” Hayden told the board. “What I’d like to do tonight is talk about what we’re planning as a three-phase approach to identifying the building’s needs – the immediate needs and some long-term needs. The board can make some really informed and intelligent decisions as we move forward here with your improvements. … It’s a very interactive process.
The high school was built in the early 1960s. Some rooms have their own air conditioning units, but the whole building is not air conditioned. About 600 students in grades 9 to 12 are enrolled this school year.
Hayden showed photos of the Canon-McMillan High School auditorium, as well as that district’s college cafeteria, gymnasium and hallways when he spoke about possible upgrades.
He said renovations to the aforementioned equipment, along with the creation of collaboration and manufacturing spaces, are among the top trends for school districts and could be part of the master plan.
Hayden cautioned district officials against increasing the costs of any renovations due to material shortages and delays, volatile material prices and labor shortages.
The cost of just developing the master plan has been estimated to be around $ 30,000 and is expected to take around four months.
It would include site / building assessments as well as design concepts of some renovations. The plans would be reviewed over the next two months as engineering work on the scope of the high school air conditioning project takes place.
The presentation indicated that it would take another two months to prepare the tender documents and five months after that to complete the work.
The architect’s fees for the air conditioning project would be 5.9% of the total cost of the project. This is the same fee structure for any other renovation project that the board chooses to undertake.
District officials said creating a master plan could be considered an ESSER project and, therefore, would be allowed to be paid from those pandemic-related funds.
Board chairman Daniel Lucovich said he believes HHSDR will offer the best deal on blueprint and project costs, although the district has yet to hear a presentation from another business.
“(It’s) relationship-based (and) based on the quality of the work they do,” Lucovich said. “We beat them pretty well when it comes to pricing.
“Usually, when schools do these kinds of projects, they get the COSTAR (the state’s cooperative purchasing program) awards. If we were going to buy an air conditioning unit, whatever the price the government would buy it for, that is what we would buy it for. The installation costs and all of those things are something different. I just know how well they work.
School principal John Haven said he would like the master plan to include input from taxpayers and parents, if the board goes ahead with the proposal.