Assessment shows budget estimates for CHHS renovations, new construction

Published 4:39 pm Friday, November 19, 2021

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CHELSEA – The Chelsea City Council heard the results of a facility assessment and programming for a new Chelsea High School building on Thursday, Nov. 18, the same night the city received the results of its school system feasibility study.

Gary Owen, regional vice president at Goodwyn Mills Cawood’s Birmingham office, presented the results of the facility assessment his firm conducted on the existing CHHS campus and the proposed new high school program.

Owen outlined the scope of work, which was first to evaluate the existing high school site and then to consider the factors involved in constructing a new facility, including estimated costs for the different scenarios.

“Our team basically was to identify some deficiencies and short-term items that need to be addressed,” Owen said. “Then, we’ve also taken a look at some opportunities for some potential renovation that could be considered more long-term. We have created a program, if you will, for a potential new Chelsea High School between 850-900 students.”

The facility assessment entailed a thorough review of the building and its systems. Major aspects of the review included roads, drainage and parking areas; roofing; exterior brick, windows and canopies; interior finishes, doors and hardware; ADA compliance check; structural integrity of the foundations and load-bearing components; mechanical equipment and air distribution; plumbing service, fixtures, equipment and fire protection; and electrical components, including fire alarms, lighting and power service.

The main building of CHHS was built in 1991. Classroom additions were made in 2009 and 2016, along with an athletics building in 2019.

The campus property totals about 60 acres.

The school is about 190,000 square feet and primarily consists of load-bearing masonry and steel construction.

CHHS currently has about 1,400 students, which equates to 135 square feet per student based on 190,000 square feet.

“Simply put, this school was never built even with the additions for 1,400 students,” Owen said. “The capacity of the students has outgrown the capacity of the building, in our opinion.”

Overall, the assessment found the current building to be in “fair to good shape,” Owen said.

“The structural integrity of the building is solid and would be the primary focus for consideration of any long-term renovations and uses,” the executive summary reads. “From a renovation standpoint, the main emphasis would be replacement of finishes, door hardware, lighting and toilet upgrades and ADA non-compliance restrooms.”

Owen noted areas like the new state-of-the-art Health Sciences Lab would not need upgrades.

GMC developed interactive Geographic Information Systems mapping to catalog every space in the school building and allow reports to be made in real time.

Regarding the site, the biggest issue relates to the paving and general maintenance. Structurally, the main concern is the curved window in the cafeteria. Other deficiencies that would need to be addressed include the fire alarm system that does not meet current code standards.

Owen talked about potential renovation concepts incorporating 21st-Century learning techniques, such as collaborative learning communities, digital learning environments and commons.

“The trend in education is not the 30-by-30 classroom squares with rows of chairs and desks,” he said. “It’s flexible, collaborative, student-centered learning. These are just areas where kids can go, they can study, they can do group projects together.”

Potential additions could include a competition gymnasium, non-traditional dining, in-between spaces and transparent spaces.

Owen reviewed budget estimates for renovations on a 3-5 year plan and a 5-10 year plan.

The hard costs total would be about $8.2 million for 3-5 years and $10.8 million for 5-10 years. Soft costs (fees, permits, survey, contingency) would be about $1.2 million for 3-5 years and $1.6 million for 5-10 years.

The overall project total for 3-5 years would be about $9.9 million, compared to $12.9 million for 5-10 years.

Regarding a budget for a new high school, based on an estimated 210,000 square feet, hard costs were projected at $56.7 million, soft costs at $11.3 million, fixtures/furniture/equipment at $2.1 million and athletics at $9.8 million for a grand total of $82 million.

Owen noted that cost estimates were based on current prices and could change.