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New Center Elementary School Is Now 90% Complete and Under Budget

The Elementary School Building Committee met last night at Town Hall without Thomas Cooke of the Finance Committee or Planning Board member Jonathan Ciampa. 

1. The expected substantial completion date is Oct. 28, just two weeks out. Most technology is on site and will be installed before the Thanksgiving break. Final completion is set for Dec. 12.

The 139,457 s.f. building, which will house grades 2, 3 and 4 and replace the North St. and Trahan schools, has been under construction since July 2020.

2. The project is also on track to come in under the $98,071,145 million budget. The MSBA maximum reimbursement to the town is $32,736,619.

Only 12% of the town’s owner contingency, or the amount set aside for scope modifications and additions, has been used, leaving about $1.63 million. The construction contingency, or the amount built into the contractor’s anticipated price for the project, has 40% remaining, about $1.06 million. There have been some changes to doors, plumbing and lab setup, but the committee overall is pleased with the progress, and the contractor has no concerns about upcoming inspections. All invoices and change orders were approved unanimously.

3. The building is state-of-the-art, with maple flooring and full theatrical lighting in the cafetorium, a large kitchen and dedicated STEM and media center areas. Currently, parking lot striping is going on, and more trees are to be planted. Residents can watch a real-time building cam here. Within the next week or so, staff will be able to visit the school and see a sample classroom.

4. TPS’s consultant gathered proposals from three commercial movers and recommended Wakefield based on the company’s bid, the fact that it owns its own crates and hampers and a guarantee to complete the job on budget. Wakefield recently completed a similar project in Acton and will facilitate donating any unwanted furnishings or supplies to other districts in need, or even Africa or Haiti. 

The consultant has provided some supplies and instructions to staff; the main move is penciled in for the week between Christmas and New Year’s, if all goes as planned. Superintendent Brenda Regan said teachers, administrators and librarians are aware of what to pack.

“Now we’re planning for what we’ll need our families to do,” said Regan, such as completely cleaning out desks before the holiday break.

5. The committee approved the History Wall pending an update on the soldiers pictured in the Line of March section and final sign-off by Regan. The design represents four greenhouses, with one representing the history of Tewksbury as the Carnation Capital, one sharing Line of March images and one for our schools, including the demolished old Center School. The final panel will honor the region’s Native American history by showing a representation of Wamesit Village, with images of artifacts including spear and arrow heads.

Regan said UMass Lowell professor Christoph Strobel, who specializes in Native American history, was extremely helpful in ensuring the panel is accurate and added that Strobel may be an ongoing resource for the district.

6. Finally, the committee addressed the safety of students crossing Pleasant street. At the last ESBC meeting, a resident of Concrete Rd. asked the committee to improve the placement of crosswalks and implement other measures to slow traffic in advance of the opening of the new school.

The line striping contractor will freshen up the paint on the existing sidewalks. There will also be new “School Zone” signage installed, along with two new flashing crosswalk signs. Further permanent improvements will happen in the spring.

There may also be striping added to the one-way loop lane, shown in blue, so that those not waiting to drop off or pick up students are not stuck in long lines, an improvement suggested by current Trahan principal Jay Harding, who will be the principal in the new school. The committee is considering that proposal.

Lorna is a 25-year resident of Tewksbury who has written for organizations ranging from the DIA to InformationWeek to a free weekly in New London that sent her to interview the pastry chef at Foxwoods.

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