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Design for a new Bassick is authorized

December 21, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — Hearing that the new Bassick High School is one of just eight projects currently on a priority list sent to the governor and legislature for 2019, the city school building committee moved quickly on Thursday to start the design phase of the project.

The committee voted unanimously to instruct Perkin Eastman, the Stamford-based architects working on the project to begin creating schematic drawings that can then be reviewed by the public.

The $115 million new construction project is the largest of what is said to be about $260 million worth of school construction project being brought forward for the legislative session that begins on Feb. 1, 2019. The list is a much smaller list than in the past.

Once the project clears the legislative process, the city has just two years to get a shovel in the ground. It will be the last of the city’s three comprehensive high schools to be rebuilt.

Even though the actual size of the new Bassick is still under discussion, the committee was encouraged to get a head start on the process.

Architects Joe Costa and Joe Banks walked the committee through the three options that were considered even though the city council, school board and state have already said they favor the new plan over a renovate as new or hybrid option.

City Council President Aidee Nieves said a new building is bound to involve fewer surprises and less cost overruns, like what occurred with the Central renovation project.

The state, which is expected to pay up to 70 percent of the cost, gets the final say, the committee was told.

“The state is taking a more active role in the process,” Joe Banks, an architect on the project told her.

Even so, School Building Committee Chair Christina Smith, a member of the city council, asked the architects to give her as best they can, estimates of what the city’s out of pocket cost would be for each of the presented project options.

“It is not academic for me,” Smith said. “I want to be able to say this is why the decision was made ... We need to provide them information.”

She was told the committee could be provided with very rough estimates, but that the actual reimbursement won’t be known until the project is complete and audited.

The schematic drawings presented so far, plan on 1,050 students and 220,000 square feet. A recent enrollment study required by the state suggested there will be no more than 911 students at the school eight years out. That will most likely reduce the footprint of the new school to 190,000 square feet.

Schools Superintendent Aresta Johnson, the committee was told, worries that the enrollment estimate is too small since a new building is bound to attract more students. City Finance Director Ken Flatto wondered if there wasn’t any wiggle room with the state over the enrollment estimate.

He was told the city will ask.

School Board Chairman John Weldon told the committee that while the school board favored new construction, it wants the new school to look similar to the Beau Arts design of Bassick’s 1929 building.

lclambeck@ctpost.com; twitter/lclambeck

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