Nashua considers new middle school

NASHUA – City leaders are planning an extensive renovation project for middle schools throughout Nashua, which could ultimately result in a new building to replace the current Elm Street Middle School.

In June, The Telegraph reported this particular school needs an estimated $50 million worth of work to address long-standing issues such as the out-of-date mechanical and plumbing systems, the walls lacking insulation, the “undulating” floors, the limited parking spaces and finally, the lack of sports fields.

On June 11, Nashua Board of Education voted unanimously to move forward with plans for a nearly $80 million district-wide middle school construction/renovation project.

On Dec. 7, Alderman Rick Dowd announced the Joint Special School Building Committee has officially selected a construction manager and an architect for the middle school project.

In efforts to continue along the path of renovations, the committee selected Harvey Construction Co. of Bedford as the construction manager and Harriman Architectural Firm as the architect firm. Officials are still deciding whether this project will entail renovating Elm Street Middle School, or replacing it with a new middle school in South Nashua.

Dowd said after Jan. 1, the committee will move forward with Phase 1 of the project, which will last up to a year. Phase 1 will evaluate the two options and also will evaluate the renovations needed at Fairgrounds and Pennichuck middle schools. Dowd said they are looking to eliminate portable classrooms at the middle schools to make all three middle schools “capable to handling 800 students to balance the student population.”

Design options and pricing for both options will come from Phase 1. According to Dowd, after Phase I, a decision will be made on which option to proceed with from both a cost and design prospective.

Should the decision be made to go forth with building a new middle school in Southern Nashua, on property that was already purchased in the past, Dowd said it would allow for shorter commutes to school, as the schools would then be located in different sections of Nashua. Dowd also said the potential new school would be designed with the means to year-to-year maintenance costs.

During the Nov. 29 committee meeting, Dowd said, “We need to end up with a school that meets the educational challenges of a middle school going forward, as well as being mindful of cost.”

“When we look at the cost of renovating Elm Street versus new, we’re not only looking at initial cost, but also 20 years from now. What is the difference in lifecycle cost between the two? It makes a huge difference because we anticipate that this school will be around for another 50 years, and the current school is 80 years old. We want a very conservative number, and we want to know what the risk assessment is and have that costed out so we know what the risk is,” Dowd added.

During the meeting he also said, “We want the best end alternative for the most sensible cost.”

A final decision for the project will not be made until closer to 2020.

Grace Pecci can be reached at 594-1243, or at gpecci@nashuatelegraph.com.