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Arlington High School rebuild OK'd for next stage: Is it feasible?

How Arlington High School, parts of it built in 1914, looks today.How Arlington High School, part of it built in 1914, looks today. 

UPDATED, Feb. 16: The Massachusetts School Building Authority on Wednesday, Feb. 15, asked Arlington to see whether rebuilding or renovating Arlington High School is feasible.

This step advances the project, still five years away from expected completion. Next, the schools must hire a key figure behind the rebuild, an owner's project manager.

That manager, in cooperation with concert with the state building authority, will then hire an architect. Once the architect is hired, the administration and School Committee can begin the process of public outreach and engagement, likely starting in the fall.

That would be when parents and residents would offer ideas about the shape of the new school and the kind of education it would provide.

Superintendent Kathleen Bodie expressed her satisfaction with this decision in a news release Feb. 16, "I look forward to working with the Arlington community and the MSBA to plan for a building which will support high school education into the future. It is exciting that we have the opportunity to transform our high school at the same time as educational practices are transforming."

The state agency provides typical time ranges for steps in such a project:

* Hiring a project manager and an architect takes from six to nine months (the earliest possible one can be hired is June 5);

* The feasibility study and schematic design takes from 12 months to two years;

* Providing construction documents, offering bids and a main contractor takes 10 to 12 months; and

Construction takes two to three years.

Most of the information in this timeline was included in a Feb 15 email to the public from School Commitee Chair Jennifer Susse.

Looking at September 2022 opening

Susse also wrote: "If everything proceeds smoothly, we are probably looking at a September 2022 opening (right after my youngest graduates).

"It is possible that parts of the school will be finished earlier. It is also possible that the total project will take longer, given the difficulty of constructing a school in stages on a difficult site."

In advance of the Feb. 15 meeting in Boston, the School Committee met the afternoon before, as four members voted unanimously to approve procedures allowing the rebuild project to advance.

One vote by Susse, Bill Hayner, Paul Schlichtman and Kirsi Allison-Ampe authorized Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine to sign the feasibility-study agreement with the state school authority.

The authority did its part the next day and voted to enter the phase, known as Module 3 of the state's school building process. You can see what that module means here >> 

Feasibility studies "carefully examine potential solutions to the issues identified at the school facilities and will help us develop the most cost-effective plan to address those issues," state Treasurer Deborah Goldberg said in a news release.

One of 8 invited

The authority invited eight districts, including Arlington, into this second phase of collaboration.

The authority partners with Massachusetts communities to support the design and construction of educationally appropriate, flexible, sustainable and cost-effective public school facilities. Since its 2004 inception, the authority has made over 1,750 site visits to more than 250 school districts as part of its due diligence process and has made over $12.4 billion in reimbursements for school construction projects.

For more information on the Arlington High School project, click here >>

The authority first invited Arlington to enter the building process last May.

The news received a general welcome. Arlington High, whose oldest part dates to 1914, has not had a major addition since 1981, the year Proposition 2 1/1 took effect. In 1975, voters rejected an expansion.

Last June, Arlington voters took a different approach -- and approved a debt exclusion of $2 million to cover the cost of the feasibility study and design. The vote was 7,419 to 2,283, or 76 percent.

Many town leaders, AHS staffers, teachers and parents point to small, inappropriate classrooms and outdated equipment.

Officials have said that a new AHS would be eligible for a minimum of 30-percent state reimbursement for project costs.

During the feasibility period, authority and school officials will review options -- including renovation, a new school or rebuild-renovation combination -- to determine the best path to take.

To date, a 19-member High School Building Committee first met in December, and those involved agreed to a design enrollment number of 1,755 students.

Superintendent Kathleen Bodie has said that the design enrollment number is the number of students that can fit into all of the core classrooms in the school. For example, the state does not view a gymnasium, music rooms and some labs as core classrooms.

Current enrollment at AHS is 1,300 students.

Once the feasibility study is complete, the district moves on to working on schematic design.

Time to start imagining the kind of education a rebuild Arlington High would embrace, and a group of people connection ed to the Vision 2020 Education Task Group are doing that. Read about their brainstorming session in December. The group is planning another public session for March.

Dec. 18, 2016: Visions and revisions: Dialogue about education seeks to map fresh course

May 25, 2016: State says Arlington High School rebuild can advance

State Building Authority process >> 

Jan. 29, 2016: Arlington High School rebuild OK comes with a delay

This news summary was published Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, and updated Feb. 16, to add details.

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