Above: The plan for a new school at Hanaford, by StudioJAED, as presented at the Jan. 18 building committee meeting.
Project manager suggests a way to hold open that decision
With a Feb. 15 deadline fast approaching, the School Building Committee mapped out the next three weeks at a meeting Thursday morning (1/18/24) to make sure critical votes get taken first by them, then the School Committee, and finally the Town Council before “stage 2” plans are submitted to the state Dept. of Education (RIDE) for reimbursement confirmation.
In November, residents approved borrowing up to $150 million for major school construction, with potential reimbursement from the state of up to 55 percent. While final plans are still many months away, architects have been working on conceptual (i.e. big picture) plans. Some aspects of the overall project are already clearly defined – there will be a new school building at Frenchtown and Eldredge will be decommissioned as a school – but other aspects continue to occupy a lot of meeting time.
First, there was the clamor to spend more money on the high school. The original plan to allot $20 million to EGHS was bumped to $30 million and officials have taken pains to illustrate how that amount of money will signify real improvements. Second, the panel has been grappling with what to do at Hanaford: build a brand new school or substantially renovate and add on to the existing building.
The discussion about Hanaford continued Thursday. One big missing piece is the different cost estimates for the two paths. The third-party cost estimates are not due until Friday, Jan. 26, but one outcome of the meeting Thursday was Supt. Brian Ricca’s request that the cost estimators get at least Hanaford done in time for the Jan. 25 building committee meeting.
In both iterations of Hanaford, the school would stay essentially where it is today. A new building would have two floors; a renovation would add on to the existing building, which would be substantially renovated.
“The two have closer and better alignment than maybe people are thinking,” said Derek Osterman, project manager for construction consultant Colliers, regarding a new build or add/reno. The reason for a decision now is that the project needs to be spelled out, at least in broad terms, for the stage 2 submission to RIDE. After reviewing the stage 2 application, RIDE will tell East Greenwich what parts of the project it will reimburse.
“I don’t think [RIDE] would see a tremendous difference between the two plans. They may say, ‘Do it at the least cost possible since we’ll be paying for most of it,’” said Osterman. “I’m attempting to buy you time, let’s go in with an approach that will allow us to pivot. It would be easier to move from add/reno to new than the other way.”
Osterman cautioned that this was a “tactical strategy” he was sharing. “It doesn’t mean it will land.”
The building committee next meets on Thursday, Jan. 25, at 8 a.m. at Swift Community Center. We will share the agenda and Zoom link when it becomes available. You can find the StudioJAED presentation from Jan. 18 here: EG SBC Meeting 1_18.