Fontaine Brothers – Pope Francis High School
TIM O’CONNOR INSTITUTIONAL
The first priority when a natural disaster strikes is safety. Second is surveying the damage. It’s the third part – the “what comes next?” – that shows the character of a community.
When a tornado destroyed Cathedral High School in 2011, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Mass., realized it was an opportunity to unite its families behind the creation of a modern educational facility. Cathedral students merged with Holyoke Catholic High School in Chicopee, Mass., in 2016 to form Pope Francis High School. The school has been housed at the former Holyoke Catholic campus, but work is underway on a new facility that will better serve students. Local builder and construction manager Fontaine Bros. Inc. was chosen as the construction manager for the $47.6 million project, a point of pride for the company.
“There is a sentimental element to this project,” says David Fontaine Jr., vice president at Fontaine Bros. “One where the community rallied around it to protect its future. I think having a local builder contributes to that.”
A New Building Reflective of the Community
The story behind the creation of Pope Francis High School is not the only thing that sets the project apart from other schools Fontaine Bros. has worked on over the years. “It’s rare that you see a diocese with the funds to build a brand-new state of the art facility,” Fontaine explains. “The students of the new Pope Francis High School will benefit from a 21st century learning environment for years to come.”
That spirit of people gathering and coming together is reflected throughout the school’s design. “CBT has done an amazing job of creating an efficient building from a builder’s perspective. But the design also encourages students and staff to interact and collaborate,” says Fontaine Bros. project manager Richard Raimondi.
The four-story school will be energy efficient and encourage high levels of student interaction. From “maker spaces” in the science classrooms, which allow students to work together on projects, to informal gathering areas where students can charge their electronic devices, the building’s design will create a sense of community among students and staff alike.
One of the core design features is to circulate students through spaces without corridors. Instead of long hallways, classrooms will connect to open spaces. A wood staircase linking the top two floors will feature steps along the sides and a higher, bleacher-like seating area in the middle where students can gather for assemblies and to study.
Fontaine Bros. has been a fixture in the Springfield building scene for more than 80 years. It has constructed many of the city’s schools, erected libraries, built hotels and completed historic renovations. But few projects have meant as much to the company as Pope Francis High School. “Having the opportunity to reconstruct this school, which has been a key institution for over a century is a great fit for us,” Fontaine says.
One of the keys to the success of the Pope Francis High School project has been the trust and collaboration between all members of the project team (including CBT Architects and owner’s Project Manager David Owen). And this comfort between all the stakeholders has eased the decision-making process. “There’s total transparency,” Raimondi says. “Nothing is behind the scenes. When there is a problem we all get together and we solve it together.”
Reinvesting In Local Jobs
A commitment to cost efficiency and involving local builders has been a hallmark of the construction process. Fontaine Bros. is serving as the construction manager at risk. Additionally, most of the work is being performed by subcontractors from the local area. And these subcontractors have contributed constructability and value engineering ideas. “The subcontractors are a great example of the pride that everyone has taken to see that this project was done well and stayed within budget,” Raimondi says.
In the end, Fontaine Bros. and the entire project team maintained strict adherence to the $47 million budget while delivering quality and program that will see the school into the next century. “Working with the design team and the owner as early as possible pays dividends later in that it ensures at the end that the owner receives what they expected, when they expected it, for the cost they expected,” Raimondi says.
Work on the high school began in September 2016 and is scheduled for completion by July 2018, in time for the 2018-19 school year. The four-story, 114,900-square-foot building is being erected at the site of Cathedral High School. About 400 students are expected to enroll in the first year, but the school is designed to accommodate up to 600 students.