By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — Residents will find out tomorrow how much it’s going to cost to build a new school in Bradford.
A meeting of the School Committee and the Hunking Building Committee is scheduled for 7 p.m. at City Hall to make several key decisions related to replacing the deteriorated middle school.
Architects and consultants for the project are expected to pitch several options for the new building’s size, grade configuration and location. The cost of the new school will depend on how many grade levels it will accommodate, for instance whether it’s going to be an elementary, middle or combined kindergarten-to-grade-eight school. The building is expected to cost between $25 million and $50 million, depending on its size.
Superintendent James Scully has said he favors building a kindergarten-to-grade-eight school that would accommodate about 1,000 students. That would allow the city to close the outdated and deteriorated Greenleaf School and relieve overcrowding at Bradford Elementary School. Those are the other two schools in Bradford — the city’s fastest growing area in terms of potential new housing developments.
The city also must decide whether to renovate portions of the Hunking building and add onto it, or demolish the structure and build a new school on nearby playing fields. The state, which has committed to paying about two-thirds of the cost of the new school, has said it will not allow the city to simply renovate the existing building because the footprint is not large enough.
All options being considered would allow Hunking students to remain on site during a phased construction project, school officials said.
Typically, the architect meets first with the building committee and then reports a few days later to the School Committee. School Committee member Joseph Bevilacqua said it was his idea to hold a joint meeting due the critical nature of the information to be presented, the decisions to be made at the meeting, and the tight time frame the city is up against in replacing Hunking School.
“The two critical issues are the building and grounds and the educational programming,” Bevilacqua said. “So it makes sense to decide those issues together,” Bevilacqua said of the School Committee’s and building committee’s primary areas of oversight. “It’s vital that we work within a budget the city can afford, so making these decision together makes sense.”
Stephen Armington of JCJ Architecture recently told the School Committee that engineering tests show the entire Hunking property is suitable for a new school, despite concerns that have persisted for years that Hunking was built on wetlands that contributed to its premature deterioration. Armington said it was his opinion the school’s design was so poor that rain water seeped in from the sides of the building rather than ground water from underneath.
In late 2011, the city closed part of the Hunking and moved about 150 students to another school due to structural problems in the foundation that threatened to collapse part of the building. Repairs have since been made, but the building is expected to be usable for only a few more years.
The state has committed to reimbursing the city at least 67 percent of the cost of the new school, with the city responsible for the rest. Voters will be asked to pass a debt exclusion early next year, temporarily raising their property taxes to cover the city’s portion.