EASTHAM — The Nauset Regional School District is tapping funds from the high school renovation project’s contingency budget after construction on one building revealed structural issues that will cost more than $1 million to fix.
According to Greg Levasseur, chair of the high school’s building committee, when the project’s general contractor, Brait Builders, tore down the exterior envelope of the N Building, it found windows that were “clipped and glued” into the exterior block wall but otherwise completely unsupported.
Levasseur said this meant project designer Flansburgh Architects had to develop a completely new scheme for the building’s exterior, including new windows and a new façade that would cost the project about $1.3 million extra.
Built in 1995 for administrative uses, the building later helped the school deal with rising enrollment. The windows were replaced in 2011, Levasseur said, and with this renovation insulation will be redone for more energy efficiency.
The new N Building will be become the arts building once construction of the first phase is completed in August 2024.
During its Sept. 28 meeting, the regional school committee authorized a change order that would carve the $1.3 million out of the contingency budget. Levasseur said that the original estimate of the cost overrun was $1.7 million, but the building committee was able to negotiate it down.
Nauset Regional Schools Facilities Director Bob Capurso had expressed concern during the school committee’s Sept. 14 meeting that the use of contingency funds was outpacing the project’s timeline. “We are spending more of the contingency than I would feel comfortable with,” said Capurso.
The project’s total contingency budget is $8.2 million; factoring in these newest costs, the district has already used up slightly more than half of that budget, around $4.4 million.
But 60 percent of the project is currently underway, said Levasseur. And because phase two involves less invasive renovations, “the worst part is over as far as change orders go,” he said.
Concerns about surprise costs were allayed somewhat when the Mass. School Building Authority (MSBA) announced it would grant $7.2 million in additional funds to Nauset as a cushion against rising construction costs, said school committee chair Chris Easley.
According to Levasseur, the district will meet with the MSBA on Oct. 26 to determine how the $7.2 million can be used. Whether it can go toward contingencies has yet to be decided, Levasseur said. Easley said the money will likely go to reducing the cost borne by taxpayers for the project.
The $7.2 million is part of a $100-million package pushed through the state legislature by the Senate Ways and Means Committee to help schools facing unanticipated building costs.
With $36.6 million already coming from the MSBA to subsidize the renovation, the project’s state subsidy will total over $43 million.
While Levasseur expressed hope that the remaining contingency funds will be enough to cover the rest of the project, Easley called it a “crystal ball question,” noting that “we won’t know until we open the walls. There is a potential that we will not have enough contingency to finish the job as designed.” What happens then, he said, is “an unknown.”
Voters in the district’s four towns — Brewster, Orleans, Eastham, and Wellfleet — have twice approved overrides to pay for the renovation, once in March 2021 to authorize $131.8 million and again in January for an additional $38.1 million after a bid from Brait Builders came in high because of supply chain issues and the inflated cost of materials.
Five million dollars of the January override supplemented the contingency budget, according to Levasseur.
The project is still on track to meet its original timeline, said Levasseur. Phase one, which includes the construction of two new buildings that will house science classrooms and a new cafeteria and auditorium, will be completed before the 2024-2025 school year.
Students will be able to return to those buildings in the fall of 2024 as construction begins on remodeling the remaining A, B, C, and D buildings. That phase will be completed by August 2025. Final touches, including landscaping and cleanup, will be done by 2026, Levasseur said.