BEAR CREEK TWP. – Choosing an architect to design the new Bear Creek Community Charter School won't be as simple as comparing the numbers on the proposal, the school's Board of Trustees said Thursday.
The new school is estimated to cost about $15 million to $18 million, including all construction, professional, site work and furniture and equipment, the board said.
It will be built on a plot of land near the Forest Park development along state Route 115.
At a special public meeting held for the purposes of open discussion, the board discussed a number of proposals, but agreed that four firms – USA Architects, Easton; Stantec, with offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh; Hemmler & Camayd, Scranton; and The Architectural Studio, Allentown – are the most likely finalists.
This was determined after presentations by all the candidates, followed by board members and school staff touring facilities designed by the finalists.
School trustees and representatives also had conversations with staff at these facilities, as well as construction managers and contractors involved in the projects, and representatives of the architectural firms.
The proposals ranged between $875,000 and $903,000, but the board said the proposals all vary in the specific factors included or considered extra, and can't be compared apples to apples.
For example, they noted that some firms built in more funds for landscaping architecture, an important factor in a school with an environment-based focus and charter.
Board members extolled the virtues of some of the facilities they toured, citing everything from creative classroom design to wise use of space and especially safety, in light of the recent deadly shootings in Connecticut.
The board agreed the finalists were capable of doing a good job with nothing negative to specifically exclude any of them, and noted the final decision probably would come down to which candidate most board members have a gut feeling can do the best job for them.
It's important that we have an architect that ‘gets us' and will give us something that we want, said board President Dave Blazejewski.
We don't want a cookie-cutter school, and there's a lot of value in having someone who can show us the things that are different – the things that we don't even know we want yet.
The board expects to vote on choosing an architect at its next meeting on Jan. 3.