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2017-10-18 / Real Estate

Board rejects facade upgrade for new school

BY JIM McCONNELL STAFF WRITER


Manchester Middle School, first built as a high school in 1964, sits along eastern Hull Street Road in an area considered a county gateway. Construction on a new school at this site is expected to begin in October 2018. 
JAMES HASKINS Manchester Middle School, first built as a high school in 1964, sits along eastern Hull Street Road in an area considered a county gateway. Construction on a new school at this site is expected to begin in October 2018. JAMES HASKINS The School Board last week rejected a staff proposal to enhance the facade of the planned replacement for Manchester Middle School, saving an estimated $1 million on the project.

Nita Mensia-Joseph, chief operations officer for Chesterfield County Public Schools, presented the board with three upgraded facade options as part of a plan to customize the two-story middle school prototype design that was approved in June. According to Mensia-Joseph, staff sought additional facade alternatives to give the new building “a greater presence in the community” along eastern Hull Street Road.

County leaders have targeted that corridor for revitalization as one of Chesterfield’s critical “gateway” areas.

Mensia-Joseph noted that during meetings of the now-defunct Capital Construction Goals and Accountability Committee, a member of the Board of Supervisors commented on the significance of the school’s location and said, “We really want this school to look good.”

Mensia-Joseph also acknowledged that staff didn’t particularly like the facade that was part of the original middle school prototype, which is based on an existing school in Isle of Wight County.

Each of the facade options presented last week were “definitely an upgrade,” she added.

The School Board has adopted the use of prototype designs for all new elementary and middle school construction – a move that will save millions of dollars in design fees over the life of the current school revitalization program.

The new Manchester Middle will be Chesterfield’s first middle school built using the prototype design.

When county voters approved a $304 million school bond referendum in November 2013, the school system planned to extensively renovate the current Manchester Middle building, which was built as a high school in 1964 and adapted for use as a middle school in 1992.

But after construction bids came in more than $4 million over budget, the School Board changed course last October, concluding it made more sense to demolish the existing school and build a replacement on the same site.

The estimated budget for the new Manchester Middle is $46.7 million – about $5 million more than the projected cost of a full-scale renovation.

As a result, school officials have been looking for areas to curb costs on the project. They’ve already saved $1 million by eliminating a proposed upgrade to the building’s HVAC system.

Rather than sink that money into an enhanced building facade, the School Board opted to stick with the facade that is included in the prototype design.

Board member Carrie Coyner, who co-chaired the construction accountability committee before it was eliminated last year, suggested in last week’s meeting that the committee’s discussions about the Manchester Middle property had focused more on landscaping and curb appeal than building design.

“When you drive by, the school is pushed back [from the road] and there’s a huge … it’s just not very attractive,” she said.

Asked to weigh in on the proposal, Superintendent James Lane said the new Manchester Middle “will still be a beautiful building” without an enhanced facade.

Since the School Board approved the middle school prototype design in June, school officials have worked to customize the design for use in Chesterfield.

Mensia-Joseph called that process “highly collaborative,” noting that it included feedback from teachers in all instructional disciplines and principals from several middle schools, as well as staff in the school system’s food services, security and transportation departments.

The most significant changes included an increase in the capacity of the auditorium from 400 seats to 600 seats, as well as additional square footage in the cafeteria to accommodate another serving line.

Those adjustments pushed the prototype design’s total square footage from 134,000 to 139,000.

Construction of the new Manchester Middle is expected to begin in October 2018 and be completed in 2020. ¦

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