A final feasibility study on a Hampton High School renovation was the focus of a special public school board meeting Jan. 28, bringing the potential project a few steps closer to reality.
The study was presented by VEBH Architects, the firm that provided a first conceptual renovation design to the school board in November.
Cassie Renninger, a VEBH registered architect, noted the designs are subject to modification.
The high school’s principal, Dr. Marguerite Imbarlina, gave a presentation last fall on how an academic redesign could offer an intense look at ways the current curriculum, school day and building could be modified to provide a deeper learning experience for students.
Renninger said this was one of the driving forces behind the firm’s design, which proposes using a lot of the current space but reconfiguring or making functional improvements to the layout. Three small additions are proposed.
Renninger detailed parts of the study, including moving the main entrance, administration, nursing and counseling into one area. Similar classes and subjects could be located in a single area to offer crossover benefits or share space.
The current space for performing arts is outdated and inadequate, said Renninger. The redesign would increase band room size and space for the orchestra, and set design. There would be a flattened front stage, which would make it more wheelchair-accessible.
A commons and cafeteria area would be replaced with a more relaxed, cafe-style space where students could collaborate and which would adopt a food-court approach.
The library and athletic areas would be reconfigured for better use, and VEBH proposed more restrooms and ways to lessen hallway congestion.
Additionally, there are infrastructure needs, including new roofing, HVAC and pool improvements, Renninger said.
The firm also suggested a paved practice area for the marching band, improved parking and circulation, and better outdoor lighting.
VEBH also redesigned the Fridley Field House to include a second floor and locker room adjustments, making them more flexible for different-sized groups and sports.
There is a funding opportunity through a state program called PlanCon A, which is looking more “promising” than in years past, according to a conversation Renninger said she had with a state representative to the program.
To try for the state funding, the school district must have a feasibility design in place to submit with an application, Renninger said. There is a moratorium that will most likely be lifted in July, but possibly only for a very short period, so the district would need to act fast to get into the funding queue, she said.
The cost for construction and design “conceptually at this stage” would be between $35 million and $38.5 million, Renninger said.
The Fridley Field House redesign would be “roughly” $3 million without a new second floor, or $4 million to $4.5 million with the addition, she said.
A potential timeline reflects a traditional project length of 36 to 48 months. This includes 12 to 18 months of design planning, and 24 to 30 months of construction.
As of last week’s presentation, Renninger suggested the board accept the feasibility study this month, which would most likely be at next week’s voting meeting on Feb. 11. The board would be able to retain an architect the following month.
“They want you to take your concept to that next level,” said Renninger. “You’re not committed until you sign a contract with the contractors.”
Even if the board accepts the feasibility study next week, Renninger said, it can be flushed out. Any ideas would be followed by multiple design phases, meetings and chances for public input and other approval steps.
“The design phase can continue to be worked on,” she said. “By going through the (PlanCon) process, you’re not committed to the project or to spend that money.”
She said VEBH is accustomed to working around school schedules and testing during construction.
Superintendent Michael Loughead said the district is in the process of working with state police and Hampton police Chief Tom Vulakovich on an updated safety and security program at the district.
“Timing couldn’t be better,” he said.
Casey Capsambelis, a senior at the high school and a member of the marching band and orchestra pit, commented that the design followed much of what the performing arts students were requesting, according to a survey she conducted.
“I recognize it comes with a big price tag, but I think it will benefit students for years to come,” she said.
There are soft costs associated with the project, such as engineering, survey and municipal costs, which Renninger estimates at $7 million. The estimated total reflects the current economy and a presumed timeframe, she said.
Natalie Beneviat is a