BRISTOL - The transition of the old Memorial Boulevard School into an arts magnet school took a big step forward as the committee in charge chose an architect for the project.
Chris Wilson told the Board of Education the committee chose Quisenberry Arcari Malik LLC, “otherwise known as QAM.” Wilson is both board chairman and a committee member.
The committee got submissions from eight to 10 architects, he said. “It felt like QAM had the best value proposition in both pricing and quality engineering/design expertise. It’s a renovation of a school and because of the theater and the arts it’s a really unique project. We thought QAM had the expertise to do that.”
Wilson said the committee will likely choose a construction manager and project manager soon.
QAM lists a number of school construction and renovation projects on its website, including the CREC Museum Academy for pre-K to fifth grade in Bloomfield; Wethersfield High School; and the John Wallace Middle School Academy of Aerospace and Engineering in Newington.
The city wants to renovate the old school building into the Memorial Boulevard Intradistrict Arts Magnet School for 525 students in grades 6 through 12, which local students could attend through a lottery system.
Over the summer Superintendent Susan Moreau said she received a commitment letter from the state for about $56 million to renovate the school. The funding represents a 68 percent rate of reimbursement for the project.
The nearly century-old school closed in 2012, and the 90,000-square-foot building has gone unused for several years after prior plans failed to come to fruition. The arts and theater magnet school would be home to Bristol’s largest performance theater.
The arts magnet school project got its start in January 2017, when State Rep. Chris Ziogas, D-Bristol, and Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, toured the school along with members of the City Council and school board to discuss potential funding for the renovation.
Currently about 100 local students go out of district to performing arts magnet schools in Hartford or Waterbury. The state pays about $5,000 per student for their transportation costs so it would save the state money to keep them in the district, Wilson has said.
Last fall the school board approved educational specifications and an operational plan for the proposed arts magnet school, which would include converting the gymnasium to a small black box theater, and possibly re-opening the building’s pool for community use.
City officials would also like to use the school’s existing 750-seat theater, which is more traditional and features a balcony and a mezzanine, as a community cultural center.
Memorial Boulevard was the city’s high school when it opened in 1922. In 1967, it became a junior high school and then a middle school, until it closed at the end of the 2011-12 school year, as part of a major redistricting in which five aged schools were closed and two large new ones opened.
The building was last renovated in 1978. The 10,000-gallon oil tank was replaced in 2000 and the roof was replaced in 2008. The overall area is listed as 96,524 square feet.
The arts magnet school plan has drawn bipartisan support from city and school officials. However, some teachers have expressed concern that it could pull resources from arts programs in the city’s other public schools.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.