Published: 05/17/2022 18:47:22
Modified: 05/17/2022 18:45:35
ORANGE – Construction of the new Fisher Hill Elementary School is reportedly on schedule and under budget. The students are scheduled to move into the approximately 50,000 square meter extension in January.
Martin Goulet of Hill International Inc., the company managing the project on behalf of the city, noted that the current school building will be renovated in time to reopen to students in the fall of 2023.
“We’re about 30% complete with construction,” Goulet said on site Tuesday afternoon as youths milled around nearby at recess. “The extension … is being built. The structure is complete, and they’re doing the exterior walls and roof as we speak — and installing the interior mechanics, plumbing, sprinkler system, and electrical. It’s all built inside.”
The Dexter Park Innovation School is scheduled to be demolished once the Fisher Hill addition is complete. All of Orange’s primary school students will move into the expanded and renovated 97,000-square-foot building, which is designed to serve Orange’s educational needs for at least 50 years.
Dexter Park was built in 1951 and was rated a “Category 4” school by the Massachusetts School Building Authority, a quasi-independent governmental agency, in 2006, which is the lowest rating. Voters in 2018 voted to fund a feasibility study on Dexter Park and find ways to repair or replace it.
Goulet said the final product will include 32 classrooms between the current building and the annex, a new entrance and learning platform outside of the school’s media center and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) classrooms. He added that the new entrance will have unbreakable school safety glass windows to protect students and staff from those who would harm them. A door buzzer access system will be installed in the new building, while existing schools had to be retrofitted for this technology. The gym will also be 30 feet taller.
The general contractor for the project is J&J Contractors Inc. of North Billerica, which Goulet says has hired about 12 subcontractors. Goulet said the construction cost is $44 million and the total project cost is $57 million. The workers officially laid the foundation for the project in October.
Orange School Building Committee chair Bruce Scherer said a pollinator meadow will replace the Dexter Park Innovation School.
“It’s going to be nice,” he said.
Scherer said that everyone who has worked with J&J Contractors gave the company “very good marks”.
“I’ve never built a school before, but when I see it, I definitely recognize quality construction,” he said. “Everyone is excited about this new school.”
He also said the building will have a ventilation system that is “second only to a hospital”.
Scherer mentioned that there is a plan to install a 224-kilowatt solar array on the roof, and the city is seeking funding opportunities, with an application for one due in early June.
Goulet explained that a construction exit leading from the site down to North Main Street will be used by school buses after construction is complete. Having worked in construction for 45 years, Goulet mentioned that he plans to retire once the Fisher Hill project is complete.
Domenic Poli can be reached at [email protected] or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.