The school board has voted unanimously to move forward with plans for a brand new high school, middle school and Wellness Center.
At the Sep. 4 meeting, architects Dore & Whittier presented the board with five different concepts for the future campus, ranging in estimated costs from $184.6 to $209.6 million and in construction duration times from three years and eight months to five years and 10 months. Every concept incorporated a brand-new high school, but two of them planned for renovation only to the middle school. Additionally, the least costly option eliminated the addition of the Wellness Center.
The five concepts were shared with the public at the Aug. 21 school board meeting, as well as during two separate meetings with parents where the board gathered feedback and input. After reviewing that information and further discussion at the recent meeting, board clerk Bridget Burkhardt moved to choose Concept 5 as the focus for the construction goals. The motion was seconded by board member Alex McHenry and approved by the rest of the board.
Concept 5 has the highest estimated cost at $209.6 million and includes new middle and high school buildings, plus the Wellness Center, which will feature an indoor track, several basketball courts, locker rooms, weight room, movement studio and the possibility to roll out turf for various other sports, including indoor baseball, tennis or volleyball. The center would also offer a space for assemblies, graduation and other large events, plus an opportunity to rent the location to outside groups and host track meets with other schools.
Since all three buildings will be situated at the rear of the property, Concept 5 also has the shortest completion period, with total construction and demolition time coming in at three years, eight months. In turn, this concept offers the least amount of educational disruption to students, a top priority for the board.
With a clear direction for three new buildings, Dore & Whittier will enter into the schematic design phase from now until the end of December. There will be five public presentations scheduled to provide updates on their progress and continue to gather input and feedback from the community.
“All of our projects are community based,” architect Lee Dore said. “There’s a back-and-forth process between September and December with lots of opportunity for public engagement and lots of opportunity for the public to weigh into what these buildings are going to look like, what the overall aesthetic is and what our goals are for sustainability.”
During January and February, community outreach will continue leading up to the bond vote on Town Meeting Day in March 2020. Pending a successful vote, Dore & Whittier will dive into a long design development phase, finalizing the details from furniture to finishes, from approximately April 2020 to September of that year. They will then enter into the construction document phase, which includes engineering work, before issuing the project out to public bid in March of 2021. Construction would begin shortly after choosing a contractor, with current estimates showing both the middle and high school students moving into the new buildings in January of 2024. Demolition of the existing schools would follow, as well as finishing up the various fields and parking, with the project fully completed by October of 2024.
Although the board agrees that the high school’s need for a new building is greater than the middle school’s, they also feel that a renovation only would still be extremely expensive and disruptive to students.
“If you can really make school a place that they want to be every day at the middle school level, which is challenging in so many ways, I think that carries over into their high school experience and beyond,” Burkhardt said.
The next school board meeting will be held on Sep. 18 at 7 p.m. at the Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School Library.