NASHUA — A city panel is recommending that the school district replace a middle school, renovate the two other existing middle schools, and bring a special education wing to the district at a combined cost of nearly $120 million.
The Joint Special School Building Committee voted unanimously in support of the projects.
The group was presented with different options on how to address various needs within the city’s three existing middle schools — Elm Street Middle School, Fairgrounds Middle School and Pennichuck Middle School.
The Harriman architectural firm highlighted two major options for the panel: Extensive renovations and additions to all three middle schools at an estimated cost of $130,243,620, or construction of a new middle school, discontinuation of the Elm Street school, and renovations and additions at Fairgrounds and Pennichuck, for a total cost of about $114,898,992, according to Jamie Ouellette of Harriman.
If the new-school option is selected, Ouellette told the committee last week, an optional special-education wing could be constructed for an additional $4,810,956, which would result in a combined total of $119,709,948 for all of the middle school projects.
“The construction schedule is only two years,” said Ouellette, explaining that the first option that includes work at the three existing middle schools would have taken four years to complete.
Some aldermen spoke out in support of the new school proposal, also voicing their preferences for an optional special education wing at the new school.
Alderman Richard Dowd said the school district is already spending between $6 million and $8 million on tuition costs each year to send select local special education students out-of-district. With a new special education wing in place, those savings could be used to help offset the cost of the new school and also keep Nashua students in the local school district, he said.
“I don’t think we should be putting this off any longer,” Alderman Patricia Klee said of the new school, adding it isn’t logical to fix the aging Elm Street school.
According to Ouellette, even if renovations were to take place at the Elm Street school, there would be no room to expand, no space for athletic fields, limited parking, safety issues for pedestrians, ongoing maintenance issues and energy efficiency concerns.
In both scenarios, deficiencies at Fairgrounds and Pennichuck would be addressed with extensive renovations, including an addition to the main entry vestibule at Fairgrounds, and the removal of portables and the construction of two classroom wings and a library addition at Pennichuck, said Ouellette.
“We have got to get started,” said William Mosher, Board of Education member. If the district waits to start the projects, the costs could increase and there could be a shortage of available labor, he said.
Dowd stressed that a public hearing will still need to be held on the proposed bond, and the proposal must be reviewed by the aldermanic budget committee before the full Board of Aldermen considers the request. If it is presented with the proposed $120 million bond, 10 aldermen must support the initiative in order for it to come to fruition, he said.