Nashua Middle School Project

Nashua is currently in the first phase of a Middle School project to investigate Infrastructure and Educational shortfalls in the middle school area.  The project’s focus is to improve the middle school experience and education for the students of Nashua.  In Phase I of the project the Joint Special School Building Committee (JSSBC) has hired an Architect (HARRIMAN) and a Construction Manager (HARVEY CONSTRUCTION) to first evaluate whether it would be more cost-effective to renovate the current Elm Street Middle School or build a new middle school on property the City owns in the south part of Nashua. 

The additional focus of the project will be to remove portable classrooms currently used at two middle school that were installed some 20 years ago as a temporary measure to relieve overcrowding and have never been removed. These temporary portable classrooms are very tired and reaching the very end of useful life. We are also looking to provide any improvements required to allow these schools to easily handle 800 students.  We will be trying to balance the three middle schools to 800 students each as Elm Street Middle School currently has over 1200 students (too large for a middle school). Fairgrounds has almost 800 students now and renovations will be easier.  Pennichuck has portable classrooms and at least 8 to 10 new classrooms will need to be added.  All three middle schools have other infrastructure issues that also need to be addressed.

This project was commenced when the maintenance costs and infrastructure update costs for Elm Street Middle School became excessive.  A preliminary study was undertaken to see if further detailed examination was required and it was determined that it did.  The Board of Education asked the Joint Special School Building Committee* to take on a Middle School evaluation project and the JSSBC asked the Board of Aldermen for the funds to begin this study.

The Board of Aldermen passed a funding Resolution to re-purpose $300, 000 to begin the First Phase of this project.  Again, Phase I was to fully evaluate the current middle school Infrastructure issues and evaluate if our middle schools were meeting current State and Federal Guidelines for middle school education. Phase I commenced in January 2019 and is in its 5th month of study.  Each of the three middle schools are being evaluated by Harriman relative to physical space, electrical service, energy efficiency, security, educational approach, educational services provided, etc.  The results of these analysis are being put together in comprehensive reports which will be shared with the JSSBC in the July/August timeframe. Also being evaluated is the feasibility of building a middle school on a piece of City owned land in South Nashua. Surface and subsurface studies have been conducted to ascertain whether a new school can be structurally built on the proposed site. An industrial hygienist has been hired to verify potential hazardous construction materials al all sites. Traffic studies are also being done at all four sites to evaluate current and future traffic loads and mitigation options.

Of primary interest during this first Phase of the project is the evaluation of renovating Elm Street Middle School versus building a new middle school on City owned land in South Nashua.  I have included a picture of the possible site below:

This site shown above off Medallion Court was set aside for a new school some 20 plus years ago as this section of Nashua was being developed.  The site is over twenty acres and can easily host a new 800 student middle school with athletic fields and still maintain an adequate buffer with the neighbors.  Traffic studies have been completed addressing the impact of the school on the surrounding city streets.

To address why this project is so important to the City of Nashua is that Elm Street Middle School was built 83 years ago (Main part of the Building) and additions were added on in 1963 (57 years ago) all to host a high school.  When a new high school was built (completed in 1975) on Riverside Street, Elm Street was converted to a middle school.  Since that time the high school built to replace Elm Street High School, was completely renovated (completed in 2004) and a new high school was built (completed in 2002). The original Elm Street building has numerous infrastructure issues that will be extremely expensive to renovate and may still not meet current middle school requirements.  The 1963 addition also has several issues that would need repairs.  

All of this is being evaluated and a cost and educational adequacy is being addressed. This report will be available this Summer.  One other aspect to consider is that if we undertake renovations at Elm Street it will be a four year project (minimum) as we would have to close portions of the school while renovations were underway, install additional portable classrooms on the front lawn, and shift students around (it would still be an active school with 1200 students).  If we build a new school, it will be approximately a two year project as the current students could remain at Elm Street until the new school was completed.

Some of the challenges of renovating Elm Street are:

  • Energy costs:  Today middle schools are required to have R-18 insulation in the walls.  Elm Street currently has a value of R-2.  If we do all we can to insulate Elm Street, we might get up to an R-11 value. In addition, the mechanical systems are very old and inefficient and marginally effective.
  • The Heating and Ventilation is very old, and any renovations will definitely be expensive. Many components date back to the original construction in the 1930’s.
  • Middle school requirements today call for larger classrooms then are currently in that school.
  • Special Education spaces also have very specific requirements that are not being met.
  • Elm street was built as a high school with three floors.  Middle schools these days are designed with no more than two stories. There are also ADA (Americans with Disabilities) requirements that need to be met.
  • The amount of renovations required will also require the City to try and bring everything up to current building codes.

The final report will detail all the challenges and the cost to renovate versus a new school. There will be separate reports for each of the current middle schools and one for the possible new middle school site.  Public informational meetings will be held and a final decision by the JSSBC should be made this Fall.

* The JSSBC is comprised of five Aldermen and five members of the Board of Education.  Alderman Dowd is the Chairman of that committee.

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