Recap of 9/28/23 Building Committee Meeting

The Andover High School Building Committee Meeting met on 9/28/23 beginning at 6:30 PM.

The meeting and discussions focused in the following areas:

  • Presentation of AHS space, usage, and methodology showing 108% utilization for the current school year
  • Committee vote to remove from consideration the use of a heavy timber (versus steel) for structural support in some areas of the new building due to cost
  • Presentation of existing traffic conditions based on a traffic study and multiple days of car counts
  • Updated site circulation plan incorporating feedback received so far

Each of these areas is describe in more detail below.

Current Space Utilization

AHS Assistant Principal and newly appointed member of the AHS Building Committee, Scott Darlington, provided a presentation and update of current space utilization metrics at Andover High. It included floorplans of the building with indication of which spaces have student classes (red dots) and which are open for other uses such as teacher planning, collaboration or swing space (green dots) during each block of the school day.

As part of their townwide facility study in 2016, MGT Consultants determined Andover High School had a space utilization rate of 117%. At that time, enrollment was 1,782 students. Mr. Darlington presented an updated analysis using the same MGT methodology showing space utilization is 108% now, with enrollment of 1,689 students.

The architecture, OPM and educational team explained best practice is to design a high school at 85% utilization to allow scheduling flexibility and recognition not every seat can be filled at every available time. With that in mind, Andover High is currently overcapacity by about 23%.

The updated 108% utilization calculation takes into consideration changes to the building since 117% was calculated in 2016:
– “makeshift” spaces have been created, including storage spaces and offices that have been converted to classrooms (see this example)
– general classrooms have been subdivided to create multiple smaller special education classes (see this example)
– sections of the library have been redeveloped to create programming spaces for engineering and business classes (while taking away from media center functions)

“Makeshift” spaces in the building have attempted to mitigate current overcrowding; however, this has exacerbated the under-sizing issues within the school. For example, the average size of the general and special education classrooms are approximately 790 net square feet (nsf) and 380 nsf respectively. Per MSBA baseline standards, general classrooms should be a minimum of 825 nsf and special education classrooms should be a minimum of 412 nsf. A summary of spaces in the current high school versus baseline state space standards for 1,700 students can be found here.

Mr. Darlington also described the domino effect of repurposing space both during and after school. As one example, because the Robotics Club uses library space after school, students who may otherwise study or do group work there will relocate to the cafeteria, which is not acoustically sound and can be distracting to students.

While the presentation and discussion applied to the current Andover High School enrollment, Mr. Darlington emphasized the need to design and plan for an expanded enrollment of 1,900 students for a 50+ year building.

Use of a Heavy Timber Structure

The use of heavy timber within the proposed building in lieu of structural steel would reduce the carbon footprint of the project and provide other design benefits. It was on the list of “added scope” item under consideration by the Committee throughout the Schematic Design as one of many sustainability aspects. The estimated cost for adding heavy timber in approximately 40% of the building is approximately $7 million.

The Committee had requested that the design team investigate reducing the scope of this item and provide costs for providing heavy timber structural elements within the gym, cafeteria, main lobby, and media center.

As a follow up to this request, HMFH Architects reviewed the following suggestions for reducing the heavy timber structure added scope item by area:

· Partial Building Spine (~12%, ~$2,270,000) – Areas viewed from the ground and first floor lobby spaces and cafeteria (most public)

· Media Center and Business Suite (~5%, ~$950,000) – Visible from the main entrance, hub of the academic wing

· Gymnasium ~4%, ~$760,000

HMFH Architects indicated that the heavy timber structure will only reduce embodied carbon if there is an “end-of-life” plan to assure the timber used in not ultimately placed in a landfill following the building’s useful life. HMFH also reviewed alternative options for reducing embodied carbon without pursuing heavy timber, which included:

· Specifying low carbon content concrete mixtures to reduce the embodied carbon of structural concrete elements

· Specifying structural steel, rebar, and structural metal deck with high recycled content

· Evaluating building planning efficiency to reduce overall use of concrete

Due to the cost, alternative options, and the inability to control compliance with an “end-of-life plan”, the Committee unanimously voted to remove the heavy timber structure added scope item from further consideration.

Existing vs. Proposed Traffic Conditions

HMFH Architects provided a summary of the work TEC, the traffic engineer for the project, has conducted. This includes traffic counts to identify the number of trips into and out of the campus from each entry point for buses, students, staff, and parents.

TEC’s data showed parent drop-off accounts for 75% of all trips into and out of the campus in the morning, and 52% of all trips during the afternoon pickup time period. As a general statement, the vehicle traffic would benefit if more students rode a bus than took cars.

Software-generated images of the existing queuing and traffic conditions along Shawsheen Road and the adjacent accessways were shown based on TEC’s site visit in September 2023.

That was compared to presentation of software-generated images showing queuing and traffic flow expected with the planned new site design with student enrollment expanded to 1,900 students. The result displayed significant improvements to the traffic and queuing conditions.

Site Circulation

Arcadis Architects, the landscape architect for the project expanded on the traffic conditions by providing an update on the proposed site design related to the bus/car circulation for pick-up/drop-off and bike/pedestrian access. Arcadis Architects spoke to ongoing efforts to reduce project costs by the design team as the design is developed and spoke to refinements to the grading plan to eliminate two retaining walls from the project as an example.

Arcadis noted that per discussions with Walk/Bike Andover, sidewalks have been designed to 12 feet (maximum dimensions recommended by Walk/Bike Andover) and include a lane of travel for both bikes and pedestrians. The preliminary site includes a network of connected sidewalks to encourage students to walk or bike to school.

Next Steps for The Project

The Select Board has called a second “Quad Board” meeting between the Select Board, Finance Committee, School Committee and AHS Building Committee. It will be held on Wednesday, October 18th at 7:00 PM in the Memorial Hall Library. At this meeting Andover school administration will review the educational impacts of potentially delaying the project and/or proceeding with an “interim approach” that was presented along with financial implications of the project by the Town Manager on September 27th. We encourage the public to join and offer feedback!

For further detail, please see the full presentation from the 9/28/23 AHS Building Committee meeting. To watch a replay of the meeting, you can find the AndoverTV recording in their meeting archive.