Tomorrow River STEAM project back on track
By Melanie Rossi
AMHERST – On the week of March 27, the Tomorrow River School District in Amherst broke ground on their STEAM construction project.
Approved by the April 5, 2022, referendum, the project was sent out to bid in December.
Though initial bids were over budget, largely due to inflation, the Tomorrow River School District and Hoffman Planning, Design & Construction, Inc. are now on budget and on schedule with their design.
The goal of the new STEAM project is to improve the district’s science, technology, engineering, art and math facilities in order to better prepare their students to enter the workforce.
Gregg Gutschow, Tomorrow River’s Marketing and Communications director, said, “STEAM is becoming so important and popular today; technical education is critical. There is a lack of people entering the trades. It’s in such high demand right now, and there’s such a need, so a new tech [education] facility, especially, but also science, math, agriculture and the arts—all of the things that fall under STEAM—we just see as very important to the district and to our students to prepare them the best we possibly can, whether it’s to enter the workforce or to go to a tech school, or even to college.”
The district’s current facilities were unable to meet this “critical need” of technological education, prompting the district to look into expanding.
Gutschow added, “Our tech [education] and agriculture building today is a pretty small space and pretty tight quarters, so this allows us a lot more space to be able to bring in new technology, new machinery and really remain on the cutting edge in terms of the kinds of experiences our students can get.”
The new space will allow the students to gain experience with more technical machinery, as well as work in a safer environment.
“Science labs are another example where the kids are working in really close quarters to one another; we just need better facilities to be able to do a better job,” Gutschow added.
The school district worked with engineering, construction and design company Hoffman to form an estimated budget, yet despite “planned for inflationary pressures, bids still came in over budget,” Richie said in a statement.
These bids came in around $3 million over budget, but now, in collaboration with the Hoffman team, the project is on-budget and underway.
Gutschow said, “Our school board was able to work with Hoffman and get back to budget by removing mostly items that Hoffman defined, and we defined, as minimal scope items—things that don’t affect the educational impact of what we’re constructing, but are more cosmetic, architectural, those sorts of changes to be able to recoup that money and get within budget.
“There were a few items within scope that had a moderate impact that we had to remove, but nothing major. We feel really good about the adjustments that were made and being able to deliver a fantastic product for the community and for our students,” Gutschow added.
Gutschow said that the new facilities are scheduled to open before the start of the 2024 school year.
And to celebrate the start of the new construction, the Tomorrow River School District is hosting a groundbreaking ceremony on May 30 at 10:30 a.m.
Gutschow said, “We’ll have a few people making a few remarks—someone from Hoffman, our district administrator will speak, a couple of other people—then we’ll do a groundbreaking photo with hard hats and shovels, and the band will play a bit. It will be short and sweet, but we’re looking forward to it.”