By Joseph Domelowicz Jr.
City officials this week confirmed an accelerated timeline for initial design and feasibility of a proposed new Pickering Middle School, with a goal of submitting a feasibility study to the Massachusetts School Building Authority by September, just as the new Thurgood Marshall Middle School opens its doors to students.
Inspectional Services Director Michael Donovan explained that the city, through its project manager LeftField LLC, will be accepting proposals for initial design and feasibility from project designers until February 24, 2016.
The city will then pare down the proposals to the top three firms, who will be interviewed by the city on March 2, 2016. Donovan also noted that city officials are working closely with representatives of the MSBA to ensure project designer selection is completed by the end of March, with project kick-off to begin in early April.
The MSBA approved the city’s request to move forward with a project to replace the Pickering Middle School late last year, and approved a feasibility study to consider how best to house 1,660 students. That enrollment figure was based on current Pickering School enrollment information and population forecasts for the city.
During the feasibility study phase of the project, the city and project designers will also look at identifying the best locations to build a new Middle School and review options for replacing the existing Pickering Middle School.
The options for replacing the more than 100-year old school building include building two separate new schools; building one new school on Conomo Avenue; building a new school and an addition to the Breed Middle School; renovating the existing Pickering Middle School, and renovating and adding an addition to the existing school and building a new (smaller) school on a separate site.
The feasibility study will analyze things such as cost, neighborhoods (populations served) served, operational costs of each plan, transportation issues; programmatic needs of the school, timeline for construction and the preferences of taxpayers, among other issues.
Another factor in the feasibility will be the selection of a site for any proposed new construction. That process has already begun on the local level and city officials have targeted May 24, for a first public hearing on the project and a chance for residents, parents and taxpayers to be heard about their thoughts for a new school and where it should go.
Donovan said a second hearing will likely be held in June.