Inflation is a significant contributing factor to the difference in cost between the two schools. Though Bancroft was completed in 2014, it was bid in October 2011 with a construction cost of $308 per square foot. Inflation in the construction industry has averaged about four to five percent a year. About ten years will separate the bids for Bancroft and the likely bids for the new West Elementary. At the time West Elementary goes to bid in 2021, the estimated cost will be $599 per square foot. The budgeted construction cost of Bancroft was $49,550,000. If built at the cost of current construction, Bancroft would cost $95 million to construct today.
Another part of the additional cost is due to the larger size of the building proposed for West. Bancroft was originally constructed to accommodate 640 students in grades K-5, although space has now been allocated for a new districtwide special education program reducing building capacity. Its current enrollment is 567 and its footprint is about 105,000 square feet. West Elementary is being planned for a K-5 enrollment of up to 925 students. Including the preschool wing, the new West Elementary will have twice the square footage of Bancroft.
A third factor is the variety of spaces being proposed to serve West’s students with special needs. West provides the district’s BRIDGE program for students on the autism spectrum. These students are served in essentially self-contained classrooms, with an assistant assigned to each student. West also offers the partial inclusion SAIL program for students with developmental delays in multiple areas of functioning. Finally, West serves the district’s elementary-age students who are medically fragile. All of these student groups receive a variety of related services (such as physical, occupational, and speech therapy), which require pull-out spaces for individual or small-group instruction.
The fourth factor in the cost is the inclusion of the PreK wing (to replace the Shawsheen Preschool), which Bancroft does not have. Shawsheen has about 39,460 gross square feet, but some of this space is not suitable for use by its current students. The PreK wing joined to West Elementary will have about 31,899 gross square feet. The estimated construction cost of the preschool wing is $19.1 million. In general, MSBA does not provide financial support for construction of preschools. However, when the preschool is connected to another building (as this plan proposes) and when there is continuity of programming for students (as this plan specifies), MSBA will apply its reimbursement rate to the building structure itself—but will not pay for furnishings, fixtures, or equipment. From that perspective, this plan to join the preschool to the new West Elementary provides a significant financial benefit to Andover.
The final factor is the proposed flexitorium (see FAQ #21), which has an estimated cost of $6 million.
Some of the expense of a new building will be offset by the reduced annual cost of maintaining and repairing two aging facilities and by consolidating two facilities onto one site. If some of the students with special needs who are currently served in out-of-district programs decide to return to the new West Elementary, the district will also have lower costs for out-of-district placements.