Chief Procurement Officer Tammy Tefft, who co-chairs the School Building Committee with Mayor Michael McCabe, said the city has awarded the contract to build the new elementary school on Franklin Street, which will serve students from Abner Gibbs and Franklin Avenue schools, to Fontaine Bros. of Springfield.

Tefft described Fontaine Bros. as “a great local company that utilizes and promotes local labor.”

She said the company’s primary focus is building schools, including Mountain View School, the new pre-K to grade 8 school in Easthampton that opened in September 2022. The new school on Franklin Street in Westfield will serve pre-K to grade 4.

Fontaine Bros. was the lower bidder of the two received, at $52,542,787, roughly $2 million over the city’s estimate. Tefft said Westfield is on the lower side for per square foot cost throughout the state for new school construction. She said the city was not surprised only two bids were received.

Tefft said the city does anticipate construction will be delayed. The original plan was to have the building open in time for the start of the 2024-25 school year.

“Currently, we are on tap to open the school in December of 2024, which is roughly six months later than we had hoped,” she said. One reason for the delay is the long lead time for materials such as switchgear, which she said is a broad term for a wide variety of switching devices, power system controls and circuit breakers, without which they cannot open.

“The team is diligently working to have the opening sooner, but for now we are projecting December of 2024,” Tefft said.

Fontaine will begin bringing equipment to the site in the next couple of weeks, Tefft said. The first task to be completed is the demolition of the outbuilding at Franklin Avenue Elementary School — a separate building behind the school used for art, music and technology, expected to come down in April or May. Tefft said the steel for the new school is expected to be onsite in July.

Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski said due to current supply issues, he thinks this may be only the first in a string of projected delays for the school. He said he would prefer waiting until the start of a new school year to open, but the building committee will ultimately make that decision.

“We will have input, but we aren’t sure a mid-year move is feasible,” Czaporowski said.

Once the new building is complete, the adjoining Franklin Avenue Elementary School will be demolished to make way for playing fields. The city has not yet determined what to do with the Abner Gibbs building on West Silver Street.

Builder hired, delays expected for new elementary school (thereminder.com)