Andover officials will review the possibility of short-term upgrades for the existing Andover High School as an alternative to a proposal to build a new $451.5 billion school — a project that’s heading towards its first major test at a special town meeting.

A joint meeting of the select board and the school, finance and Andover High School Building Committees will review a variety of different scenarios to finance the project next Wednesday. The meeting is a precursor to a special town meeting where the building committee will ask for $1.3 million for a detailed design of a new AHS.

Town Manager Andrew Flanagan told the select board Monday that the upgrades would “be a bridge to a future project. The request to look at a shorter term solution came from both Select Board Chair Melissa Danisch and Finance Committee Chair Paula Colby-Clements, Flanagan said.

“So if the decision was made to not go forward with the full project now, [but we needed] a 10- to 12-year solution, what would that look like in terms of order of magnitude?” he said. “What portions of that would basically be a sunk cost because they presumably would not last 20 years?”

The building committee voted in August to ask the select board to call a special town meeting. to ask for $1.3 million for the new school’s schematic design, which would give more precise estimates than the preliminary estimate of $451.5 million, If the select board approves the request after next week’s quad-board meeting, the special town meeting would have to be held within 35 days after.

Since then, Flanagan and the Andover CFO Patrick Lawlor have been meeting with the boards and compiling the data for requests by members for more information during those meetings. To date, members of the finance committee have kicked the project’s tires the hardest, but select board member Christian Huntress has said Andover can’t afford the current plan.

Flanagan said he expects to have a detailed analysis by Standard & Poor’s of the potential impact on the Town’s bond rating when it borrows for the new school, which has a preliminary estimate of $480.9 million, at the quad-board meeting. The Town is moving forward without state assistance after having 10 applications for funding from the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

“We need the information. The Town’s waiting, the voters are waiting,” Colby-Clements said when Flanagan and Lawlor met with the finance committee in August. “Everybody wants us to start having the conversation, so we might as well figure it out.”

The finance committee would have to write a report analyzing the warrant articles. The report would have to be printed and mailed to voters, prompting some finance committee members to question the quick turnaround, given they have yet to review detailed information on the $1.3 million schematic design article. But information on the request from Danisch and Colby-Clements will be less detailed.

“So we’ve been busy looking at that as well knowing that we’ll only have so much information available,” Flanagan said.

File photo: Dave Copeland/Andover News

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