Science in focus for new SHS labs

Souhegan will solicit bids for changes to school facilities

AMHERST – Souhegan High School’s science labs need updating, but instead of merely adding new plumbing and countertops, school of­ficials are considering major changes.

At their last meeting, Souhegan School Board members agreed to solicit bids for design plans for what Principal Rob Scully called "the next generation of sci­ence education."

Superficial renovations would still mean the facili­ties would be outdated, he said, so those working on a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) en­vironment study decided to look at changing the physical plant.

The architectural firm that built the Amherst-Mont Ver­non high school 25 years ago, Lavallee Brensinger, would be ideal, he said, since it did a good job with the building and employs the only person certified in New Hampshire to work on schools.

The firm has built high schools in Nashua and Windham, and Maine’s larg­est "next generation" high school.

Board members said La­valle has a great reputation, but they balked at a quote of $30,000 for the design – three times what they had budget­ed. They agreed they should put it out to bid.

"I like the idea of not throw­ing good money after bad," Chairwoman Mary Ann Mul­lins said, "and we shouldn’t be chintzy in how we do it. … This is where education is go­ing. We need to do it right."

But $30,000 is a lot of mon­ey, and includes $9,000 for "community engagement."

"Let’s see what we can do ourselves and what they can pare down," Mullins said.

Improving STEM educa­tion is one of the School District’s goals.

"We want to bring our STEM labs up to date in order to have the best fa­cilities to meet the future needs of students," Mul­lins said. "Education, and the way instruction is de­livered, have changed a lot."

Mullins said commu­nity use of the buildings is also a consideration, and that Souhegan could be a center of science and tech­nology acivities, the same way it’s a center of art and sports activities.

"We want a comprehen­sive plan that takes all of that into consideration, and a firm who knows how to execute it," she said.