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Nashua’s Middle School Project – Updated As Of March 21, 2020

Nashua’s Middle School Project – Updated as of March 21, 2020

Nashua Middle School Project

March 21, 2010:

The decision was made by the Board of Education, the Joint Special School Building Committee (JSSBC) and the Board of Aldermen to upgrade the Fairgrounds and Pennichuck Middle Schools and to close the current Elm Street Middle School and build a new Middle School in South Nashua off Buckmeadow Road.  The Board of Aldermen approved the $120M Project (Bonding $118M) and work has commenced on the drawing package for the Fairgrounds Middle School upgrade.  Fairgrounds will start as soon as school is out and should be a 14 month project (school will stay in session during the work).  Pennichuck is much more involved and will commence in the Summer of 2020 and continue into 2021.  The new school work will commence in 2021 and hope to open in September 2023.

A Committee is being formed to look into possible uses for current Elm Street school after it closes in June of 2023. There is no plan at this time to close the Keefe Auditorium.

 History of the project:

            Nashua has just completed the Phase I report and is moving to complete the first phase of a Middle School project to investigate Infrastructure and Educational shortfalls in the middle school area. The project’s focus is to improve the middle school experience and education for the students of Nashua. In Phase I of the project the Joint Special School Building Committee (JSSBC) has hired an Architect (HARRIMAN) and a Construction Manager (HARVEY CONSTRUCTION) to first evaluate whether it would be more cost-effective to renovate the current Elm Street Middle School or build a new middle school on property the City owns in the south part of Nashua.

The additional focus of the project will be to remove portable classrooms currently used at two middle school that were installed some 20 years ago as a temporary measure to relieve overcrowding and have never been removed. These temporary portable classrooms are very tired and reaching the very end of useful life as well as posing security issues. We are also looking to provide any improvements required to allow these schools to easily handle 800 students. We will be trying to balance the three middle schools to 800 students each as Elm Street Middle School currently has over 1200 students (too large for a middle school). Fairgrounds has almost 800 students now and renovations will be easier. Pennichuck has portable classrooms and at least 8 to 10 new classrooms will need to be added. All three middle schools have other infrastructure issues that also need to be addressed. All three middle schools will have security upgrades added.

This project was commenced when the maintenance costs and infrastructure update costs for Elm Street Middle School became excessive. A preliminary study was undertaken to see if further detailed examination was required and it was determined that it did. The Board of Education asked the Joint Special School Building Committee* to take on a Middle School evaluation project and the JSSBC asked the Board of Aldermen for the funds to begin this study.

The Board of Aldermen passed a funding Resolution to re-purpose $300, 000 to begin the First Phase of this project. Again, Phase I is to fully evaluate the current middle school Infrastructure issues and evaluate if our middle schools were meeting current State and Federal Guidelines for middle school education. Phase I commenced in January 2019 and is in its 8th month of study. Each of the three middle schools are being evaluated by Harriman relative to physical space, electrical service, energy efficiency, security, educational approach, educational services provided, etc. The results of these analysis are being put together in comprehensive reports which will be shared with the JSSBC in the early September timeframe. Also being evaluated is the feasibility of building a middle school on a piece of City owned land in South Nashua that had been earmarked and deeded for Nashua school many years ago. Surface and subsurface studies continue to be conducted to ascertain whether a new school can be structurally built on the proposed site. An industrial hygienist has been hired to verify potential hazardous construction materials al all sites. Traffic studies are also being done at all four sites to evaluate current and future traffic loads and mitigation options.

Of primary interest during this first Phase of the project is the evaluation of renovating Elm Street Middle School versus building a new middle school on City owned land in South Nashua.

This site is North of Medallion Court and was set aside for a new school some 20 plus years ago as this section of Nashua was being developed. The site is over twenty acres and can easily host a new 800 student middle school with athletic fields and still maintain an adequate buffer with the neighbors. Traffic studies are being completed addressing the impact of the school on the surrounding city streets.

To address why this project is so important to the City of Nashua is that Elm Street Middle School was built 83 years ago (Main part of the Building) and additions were added on in 1963 (57 years ago) all to host a high school. When a new high school was built (completed in 1975) on Riverside Street, Elm Street was converted to a middle school. Since that time the high school built to replace Elm Street High School, was completely renovated and a new second high school was built (completed in 2002). The original Elm Street building has numerous infrastructure issues that will be extremely expensive to renovate and may still not meet current middle school requirements. The 1963 addition also has several issues that would need repairs. The Study will address the costs and the feasibility of a renovation.

All of this is being evaluated and a cost and educational adequacy is being addressed. This report will be available in early Fall. One other aspect to consider is that if we undertake renovations at Elm Street it will be a four year project (minimum) as we would have to close portions of the school while renovations were underway, install additional portable classrooms on the front lawn, and shift students around (it would still be an active school with 1200 students). If we build a new school, it will be approximately a two year project as the current students could remain at Elm Street until the new school was completed. Additions to Pennichuck Middle school would need to be completed to handle the additional student load.

Some of the challenges of renovating Elm Street are:

  • Energy costs: Today middle schools are required to have R-18 insulation in the walls. Elm Street currently has a value of R-2. If we do all we can to insulate Elm Street, we might get up to an R-11 value. In addition, the mechanical systems are very old and inefficient and marginally effective.
  • The Heating and Ventilation is very old, and any renovations will definitely be expensive. Many components date back to the original construction in the 1930’s.
  • Middle school requirements today call for larger classrooms then are currently in that school.
  • Special Education spaces also have very specific requirements that are not being met.
  • Elm street was built as a high school, meeting high school educational requirements in the 1930s. Middle Schools have new requirements that should be met to comply with State Standards. There are also ADA (Americans with Disabilities) requirements that need to be met if any school building is renovated.
  • The amount of renovations required will also require the City to try and bring everything up to current building codes.

Public informational meetings will be held before any  final decisions by the JSSBC will be made this Fall.

UPDATE AUG 9, 2019

The Middle School Project continues to progress smoothly as all the various testing is almost complete and cost of the project is being calculated for the alternatives.  The final report will be delivered in draft form in early September and will begin moving toward the selection and approval process.  Some delays in the report have taken place due to vendors testing taking longer to compete their assigned tasks. Once the plan is approved and bonding secured then we will move into detailed design phase where Architectural drawings will be drafted.  Continue to check this site for updates as the project progresses.

UPDATE AUG 21, 2019

The Project Team has not received the final Traffic Study for all the sites and we are awaiting some additional testing at Elm Street as well as some additional boring samples from the potential new school site. For those reasons we have postponed the JSSBC Meeting scheduled for August 22, 2019, and will re-schedule for early September.

UPDATED AS OF 20 SEPT 2019

The Project and the Study are moving along towards the completion of Phase I.  On September 26, 2019, at 7pm at Nashua High School North Board Room, the JSSBC will update the Public on the findings of the engineering analyses from all the middle school sites.  The exact content of the presentation won’t be known until next Tuesday after discussion with the Architect and the Construction Manager.  I will update this site before the JSSBC.

The final report will be presented in early October at a special JSSBC meeting to be announced shortly.  The final report will include all the findings of the school evaluations and present the data that will part of the JSSBC Project decision.  After the report is released, a briefing will be held with the full Board of Education, the full Board of Aldermen, and Public Input meetings.

UPDATED AS OF 3 OCTOBER 2019

On October 9th at 7 PM at the Nashua High School North, our architect, Harriman, will release the findings of their Nashua Middle School analysis.  This report will detail all the findings from all four middle school sites and present a cost analysis to address everything they found.  I would caution that the costs being presented will be “to correct everything they found to be required, including new construction costs”.  The JSSBC will present this report to the Board of Education, the Mayor, the Board of Aldermen, and the Public for comment.  When all comments are considered and addressed, a decision will be made on how to proceed and with that, a cost to Bond to start work on Phase II.  I have details the dates for future meetings below as we know them at this time.

Wednesday, October 9th, 7pm:  JSSBC               Release of the Phase I report from Harriman                       Nashua High School North Board Room               REPORT DELIVERED

Monday, October 21st, 6pm                                   Presentation of the Final Report to Board of Education     Nashua High School North Board Room               Meeting held.

Thursday, October 24th, 7:15pm                          Regular meeting of the JSSBC (Normal Business)              Nashua High School North Board Room                 Meeting held

Thursday, October 24th, 7:45pm                          Public Input Meeting on Middle School Project                   Nashua High School North Cafeteria                       Public info meeting held

Thursday, November 7th, 7pm                             Regular JSSBC Meeting                                                              Nashua High School North Board Room

Thursday, November 21st, 7pm                             Regular JSSBC Meeting                                                              Nashua High School North Board Room

UPDATED AS OF 12 OCTOBER 2019

The Phase I report has been completed and delivered. It will be available online early next week on the School District and City websites.  A Public Review and Comment meeting will be held at Nashua High North on October 24th at 7:45pm.

UPDATE AS OF 25 OCTOBER 2019

The Phase I has been distributed to the Joint Special School Building Committee, the Board of Education, the Mayor and certain Department Heads, and the Board of Aldermen.  The report is also online on the Nashua School District’s website.  A meeting was held to present the findings to the full Board of Education (five members are part of the JSSBC) and inputs received.  Last evening we held a open public meeting where the Architects did a short overview and then answered questions and concerns of the members of the Public that were there as well as teachers and school administrators.  If anyone has questions they would like answered, please email me at [email protected]

Inputs will continue to be received and evaluated before a final decision on the path forward.  Phase I is the Concept Phase with Preliminary funding estimates.  Phase II will be the Design Phase where plans become more concrete before actual construction takes place.

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