Four construction companies are expected Tuesday to place final bids on the $104.5 million project for a new Franklin High School, clearing the way for a start of construction next month, school officials said.
“The project will be awarded to the lowest bidder,” said Tom Mercer, a town councilor who is chairman of the Franklin High School Building Committee. “We’re hoping to get a shovel in the ground in October.”
The four bids are being placed by construction companies prequalified by the Massachusetts School Building Authority earlier this year.
The bidders are the Agostini Construction Co., of East Providence, R.I.; Fontaine Brothers Inc., of Springfield; J&J Contractors Inc., of Lowell; and a joint venture involving KBE Building Corp., of Farmington, Conn., and CTA Construction Co. of Waltham.
The Franklin project is the latest in a series of new high schools built in area communities.
The new Natick High School opened in August, with a price tag of $78.5 million. Back in February, Wellesley debuted its new $115 million high school. Newton North High School, which opened in the fall of 2010, is still the most expensive public school ever built in Massachusetts, at $197.5 million.
In Franklin, the winning contractor will pick from a pool of 65 companies that bid Sept. 11 on subcontracting work, which is down from a group of 112 subcontractors that were prequalified this year, Mercer said.
The selection of contractors signifies the final stage of preparations before the first phase of construction can begin.
“Some of us have been working on this since 2004,” said the Franklin school district’s superintendent, Maureen Sabolinski. “It’s really, really exciting.”
That excitement will come to fruition in 2015, school officials said, when construction will be completed and Franklin High School will offer some of the most technologically advanced courses in the area.
Aspiring crime scene investigators will be able to learn how to analyze blood spatter in the new school’s forensics lab. Students gearing up for medical careers will connect cardiovascular machines to computers in the physiology lab to measure the health effects of exercise. And future scientists will tinker with solar panels in the school’s alternative energy lab.
“It really will be the realization of an opportunity to build a true state-of-the-art facility to support and enhance the education of our students,” Sabolinski said.
The current 41-year-old school building, however, is “woefully outdated,” she said, and not fully handicapped accessible. “To me, that’s a core value. The building should be accessible to anyone,” she said.
Sabolinski also said the school’s row-style science laboratories and lack of outlets for computers at workstations are holding students back.
“Back in the day, we had physics, chemistry, biology, and that’s it,” she said. The new building “will really help prepare kids to pursue engineering, science, technology, and higher education.”
In 2005, Franklin High was placed on “warning status for accreditation” by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges for numerous structural and noncompliance issues, including lack of assembly spaces, technology wiring installed in “an ad hoc fashion,” ventilation problems, and poorly equipped or outdated science labs.
At about 306,500 square feet, the new high school will be slightly smaller than the current one, which is about 312,500 square feet, but will have six additional classrooms and an auditorium, which the current school does not have.
Construction will take place on land adjacent to the current high school on Oak Street, at the location of the baseball fields and tennis court.
Brad Sidwell, the school athletic director, said soccer practices will be moved to the Fletcher and King Street fields for the last few weeks of the fall season.
In the spring, the baseball, softball, and tennis teams will use fields owned by the town or Dean College.
The high school’s access road will be closed during much of the construction, limiting access to the parking lot. Also, portions of the parking lot will be rotated out of use during construction.
While overall disruption is expected to be minimal, “it would be disingenuous to say there will be no disruption,” Sabolinski said.
Franklin residents in March approved building the new high school for $104.5 million by a vote of 7,988 to 1,982.
The town is responsible for paying $47 million toward the project, and the state will fund the rest. Continued...