Cost savings, accessibility core of new Showell design
(April 21, 2017) Increased space, security and the potential for cost savings led the Board of Education to redesign the layout of the proposed replacement for Showell Elementary School in Berlin, which is expected to begin construction in March 2019.
Jettisoning the former design, which is visually similar to the letter E and more or less segregated each grade into its own wing, for a new layout that roughly resembles a rectangle, eliminated the need for about 214 linear feet of perimeter wall, 39 exterior classroom doors and reduced the need for pipes, conduits and cables.
It also allowed the portable classrooms on the site to remain in place during construction, which is expected to save in excess of $200,000.
However, school board officials were reluctant to factor these potential savings into the overall cost for the project at this point, leaving the total estimated cost to be about $42.4 million. The state is expected to contribute to the project, which is noted at a maximum of about $7.54 million, bringing the expected county share of the project to nearly $34.9 million.
The county commissioners, who set a not-to-exceed amount of about $37.2 million at the end of 2015, were pleased with the presentation.
“It’s amazing what can be accomplished when we’re working together,” Commissioner Chip Bertino said.
Commissioner Jim Bunting said he was very pleased with a recent meeting with school board officials on the project, and said the new design looks great.
In the new design, 18 rooms of the school are protected from outside access entirely, yet surround a new courtyard that could be adapted for educational purposes. Another security risk of the old design was the distance an administrator or similar official would have to travel from the front office to one of the outlying classrooms in the event of an emergency.
This time was reduced by improving traffic flows along the hallways and interconnecting the sections of the school more efficiently. This efficiency shows again as the reduced hall space allowed for increased square footage in classrooms.
The Pre-K and Kindergarten classrooms were increased by 50 square feet each, and the gym needed to be enlarged since the “cafetorium” design element, which allowed the same space to be used as both cafeteria and gymnasium, has fallen out of favor with the state. The school board also needed to add a recycling room of 200 square feet to the proposal.
These improvements were part of the state’s Interagency Committee on School Construction review, which forced the changes. Importantly, the classrooms for Pre-K, Kindergarten and first grade still fall short of guidelines for classroom size, but officials felt the numbers were close enough for approval.
The Pre-K and first grade rooms are only 50 sq. ft. short and the Kindergarten rooms are 150 sq. ft. short.
Overall, with a significant reduction in the kitchen of 1,000 square feet, and other modifications to offset the gains elsewhere, the school is still smaller than the state’s recommendation of 105,333 gross square feet, yet larger than the county’s pro-forma recommendation of about 95,000 square feet at a total of 96,582 square feet.
The revised plan was submitted to the IAC, with design development documents to be submitted by Aug. 1. The bidding process is expected to open next August and construction completed for the 2021-22 school year.