The board of finance voted May 6 to give $750,000 to the Saxe Building Committee to be used for design, remediation and other pre-construction costs for an auditorium renovation and classroom expansion being considered at the school.

The project, which began last fall as an auditorium renovation estimated to cost $5.3 million, has grown to a now-proposed $16.9 million, 25,000-square-foot expansion with 12 new classrooms to accommodate an expected spike in enrollment.

Penny Rashin, chairwoman of the building committee, said the money would allow the committee's chosen architect to flesh out the options developed so far to give town officials a clearer sense of the work before voting to approve a project later this year.

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"For that amount you are not locked into a specific option," Rashin said. "I think we need to come back to you in September for you to decide."

School officials closed the Saxe auditorium to students in December, after preliminary work being done before the renovation uncovered toxic polychlorinated biphenyls and lead paint in the space. A project to remediate those problems is expected to go forward when school ends next month.

Since its formation last fall, the committee has gradually formulated a range of four options, including a stand-alone auditorium renovation, a one-story addition with seven classrooms, and a two-story, 12-classroom wing. During the process, the school district has produced new enrollment projections predicting the school's population will grow to 1,409 students by 2020, a little more than 200 students above capacity. After board member Robert Spangler suggested the board approve only $500,000 of the request, several members of the board countered that the full amount should be authorized to assure the planning process wasn't slowed down.

During the meeting, members of the building committee said the architectural design costs to further develop both the seven-classroom and 12-classroom options were about the same.

"If we ask them to come back every $400,000, what does it really buy us and what does it cost the building committee?" board member George Blauvelt said. "If we decide not to approve a project, we just ask them to stop spending money."

The $750,000 proposal will next be voted on by the Town Council on May 20.