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Architects To Report On 5/6 School Plan



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Architects To Report On 5/6 School Plan

By Jeff White

Six weeks after hiring the architectural firm Jeter, Cook and Jepson (JCJ) of Hartford to provide a conceptual design for a new fifth- and sixth-grade school on the Watertown Hall site at Fairfield Hills, the Newtown Board of Education will hear a presentation of the firm’s study during a workshop meeting next Tuesday evening.

Jim Laposta, one of the JCJ architects who conducted the conceptual study, said this week that the firm will be prepared to give a full presentation of their overall plan for a new school on the land where Watertown Hall now rests.

The presentation will include an overview of the locations of school buildings, driveways, ball fields and building plans, showing the relationship of all the rooms in the proposed school. In addition, JCJ will present their building program, listing sizes and types of rooms in the school, along with a complete budget for the entire project, Mr Laposta said.

The firm has been busy this week finalizing their report before delivering it to Superintendent of Schools John Reed, Mr Laposta added.

The firm was asked to perform the study by the school board in mid-October for the twofold purpose of providing a better comparison to Becker and Becker Associates’ Cochran House proposal and providing the board with more up-to-date numbers that reflect increases in construction costs and student populations.

JCJ took up the study of the issue last addressed by Kaestle Boos Associates of New Britain. After Kaestle Boos’ report almost a year ago, the board hoped to expedite the hiring of an architect to meet their goal of a new school by the fall of 2001. The process was stymied by the Legislative Council in early April, which supported a 5/6 school “in concept” but voted to put off hiring an architect until the fate of Fairfield Hills was decided. Dr Reed has said that this delay has pushed the project into a period of higher construction costs.

But JCJ has taken into account increased costs in their conceptual design. According to Dr Reed, the firm has adjusted the projected cost of the 5/6 school per square foot. Moreover, the firm was asked by the district to provide the study based on a 1,100-student school, instead of the original request for a school to house 1,000 students. Likewise, JCJ was asked to base their new budget on a projected 10-percent increase in student population and school-required square footage.

The school board will review the 5/6 school issue in its first December meeting, hoping that JCJ’s study will move them closer to committing to one of two courses of action: build a new school or renovate an existing building. They will look over the firm’s proposal and budget figures, and decide whether or not to go to the council and ask for funds to hire an architect and construction manager.

Dr Reed said this week that during the month of December the district would conduct interviews for a construction management organization to work in cooperation with the Town Building Committee.

“It has already cost us significant money to delay this project. Right now our need for space is growing more acute, and I think we need to move forward,” Dr Reed remarked.

Jeter, Cook and Jepson already has a 5/6 school project underway in Farmington, which just approved a referendum on the firm’s design fees last week. JCJ’s most recent project was the new regional high school in Beacon Falls.

In total JCJ’s Jim Laposta said that the firm has designed approximately 60 schools of all types in the last five to six years alone in and around Connecticut.

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