Two items in our proposal have been the subject of multiple conversations and negotiations: the flexitorium and the mechanical penthouse.
The current West Elementary School has a traditional-style auditorium with a stage and rows of fixed seats on a sloped floor. MSBA does not approve/fund auditoriums for elementary schools and instead recommended that West have a standard elementary cafetorium, which allows a cafeteria to adjoin the physical education space to be combined into one large space when needed. West’s stakeholders disagree with this approach; they believe that a cafetorium concept provides only limited access to the PE/assembly space for instructional needs since substantial time is taken up each day with serving lunch as well as the set-up, cleaning, and take-down of furniture. In addition, the cafetorium’s movable wall allows noise to penetrate from the cafeteria, which greatly interferes with students’ ability to hear their PE teacher’s directions or to hear presenters during an assembly. Because the current auditorium has been deeply integrated into the instructional program at West, the administration, staff and parents at West proposed a 6,000 square foot flexitorium instead of a cafetorium. The flexitorium is a large room with fixed walls where lunch would not interfere with instructional activities. The flexitorium could be used for many flexible purposes throughout the instructional day/year, such as performing arts classes, multi-class demonstrations by guest presenters, exhibits of science projects and visual art displays, grade level projects and activities, and capstone presentations. MSBA has indicated that it will not reimburse for any portion of a flexitorium. The projected cost of the flexitorium is $6 million, which would be funded fully by Andover taxpayers. Further discussions are needed with West faculty, district administration, town administration, and residents.
The proposed plan for a new West Elementary included a mechanical penthouse, in which the school’s mechanical equipment is enclosed in a room on top of the school. MSBA had previously approved this architectural best practice at Woodhill/High Plain and at Bancroft. The district/town proposed paying for this enclosure because it offers enhanced efficiency, longevity, and ease of maintenance. The MSBA now requires that the equipment at West must be left on the roof exposed to the elements. If it is enclosed, the district/town must not only pay for the enclosure but must also subtract 8400 square feet from the allowable space for the school. The district/town have requested reconsideration by the MSBA. To ensure that the project continues to move forward without delay, the Building Committee has removed the mechanical penthouse from the plan unless/until the MSBA changes this requirement.