Two adjacent sites off Schoolhouse Road near the Green Street Field and one on the Mattos Field side of the Veterans Memorial School property have been pegged as the best locations for a new, merged school housing East Gloucester and Veterans Memorial elementary schoolchildren.
The new school, depending on site, is estimated to cost between $64.7 million and $69.1 million.
The three sites were evaluated by school officials and Newburyport-based Dore & Whittier Architects as the best options and outlined during a public hearing presentation Monday night. They were among nine studied by the architectural firm, the same one that designed the new West Parish Elementary School that opened three years ago.
The other six building options all center on the property that houses the current East Gloucester Elementary School, which had been studied as a potential new school site and for other projects that include additions, renovations and basic capital upgrades without any new construction.
All nine building or renovation options will be on the table when the 15-member East Gloucester School Building Committee meets Thursday to narrow the field to the top three. School Committee Chairman Jonathan Pope said Wednesday he’s hopeful the Building Committee can narrow the choices to three.
“The reason we need to eliminate these other choices is that we can’t keep spending money to investigate options we know we’re not going to pursue,” Pope said. He said the need to look into potential additions and renovations stemmed from requirements outlined by the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
The MSBA sets and monitors the process under which communities get partial reimbursements for eligible school construction work, and Gloucester’s reimbursement rate is pegged at 59.3 percent.
“But we have to follow their process if we want their money,” Pope said.
The top-rated option — as outlined by Dore & Whittier through evaluating space needs, meeting the district’s educational goals and cost efficiency — is a Schoolhouse Road site across from Gloucester Crossing. It would not require the removal of a forested area on the property and could be built for an estimated $64.7 million, according to the architectural firm’s figures.
A school on an adjacent site would require the removal of trees in the area, and would cost $64.9 million, in large part due to that difference.
Both could be built without requiring any so-called “swing space” for housing schoolchildren while the new building is under construction.
The property on the Mattos Field site at Veterans would require swing space and the relocation of the ballfield — likely to the Green Street site, Pope and other officials have said. Those needs would bump the cost to a projected $69.1 million, Dore & Whittier projections show.
Each site could house a three-story school that could serve the roughly 440 students currently enrolled at East Gloucester and Veterans.
Options for the East Gloucester school property, which extends down a hill toward East Main Street from the school’s location on Davis Street Extension, include plans for simply renovating or replacing the school to house its current enrollment, or for building additions to house a school that would be merged with Veterans.
A new, 440-student school on the current school site would cost $67.5 million, and a 440-student school based on additions and renovations rather than entirely new construction would cost up to $78.2 million, including swing space, Dore & Whittier figures show. And the site would not address the district’s educational needs as well as the Schoolhouse Road and Veterans/Mattos locations, officials said.
“What we found was that renovating would be more costly than building new,” Pope said, “and all of the East Gloucester options were problematic in some way.”
The Dore & Whittier study found that a 440-student merged school would be too much for the tightly-packed neighborhood to handle.
Not everyone on the School Committee necessarily agrees.
Melissa Teixeira Prince said that, despite its high score on the Dore & Whittier scales, she would be wary of building on the Schoolhouse Road site and would like to see at least the best East Gloucester school site option left as part of the discussion.
“While I would agree the Green Street (site) ranks the highest, I’m not sure that’s where I personally would want the building committee to go,” she said. “ I just think it’s too much of a commercial area, the residents of the neighborhood there strongly oppose it, and I think we should use properties that have already been school properties.
“I’d agree to go there (to the Schoolhouse Road site) if it turned out to be the last choice,” she added, “but I’d rather see us use the East Gloucester site or the Veterans site rather than putting a new building in a neighborhood that doesn’t currently have a school.”
Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-675-2705, or email@example.com.
IF YOU GO
What: Meeting of East Gloucester School Building Committee, with goal of narrowing the number of options for the school building project.
When: Thursday, Sept. 12, 5 p.m.
Where: School administration building, 2 Blackburn Drive.