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Could new AHS be built elsewhere in town? 4 sites suggested

Kickoff to wider public involvement starts Jan. 4; visioning Jan. 18 through Feb. 13

Mirak property, Burns/Summer Street field. / Google Earth viewMirak property, Burns/Summer Street field. / Google Earth

UPDATED, Dec. 21: The effort to revamp Arlington High School will move forward in the new year with a series of forums aimed at involving the public in forming an educational vision about how to reshape the 1914 landmark.

At the same time, those involved must consider whether the school will remain where it is.

Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine told the high school building committee Tuesday, Dec. 19, that members must satisfy the state agency who is approving the project that the 21 acres at 869 Mass. Ave. is the best site.

In doing so, members must consider whether four other town sites could be a home for the school. The sites are:

-- The Summer Street recreation area, which includes the Burns rink;

-- The Mirak property, off 1125 Mass. Ave.;

-- The Dow Avenue site across from St. Camillus Church; and

-- The Mugar property, near Thorndike Field in East Arlington.

Steers clear of  'icons'

Acknowledging the controversial nature of the sites, committee Chairman Jeff Thielman said, "Anyone else want to touch this third rail?"

Chapdelaine said that in considering possible alternative high school sites, those involved are not looking at any of the town's "iconic parks," including Robbins Farm, Menotomy Rocks and McClennen.

"I made this recommendation based on my opinion that considering these sites would be divisive," he wrote Dec. 20.

He said at the meeting that he and members of the Planning Department are working with the town's GIS department, looking at size and ownership as well as proximity to transit and issues of equity. Use of an alternative site, subject to negotiation, would change the equation for phased construction. That is, the plan to revamp AHS at its current site means building elsewhere on the acreage while daily classes continue in unaffected buildings. Constructing a school at another site means leaving all current classrooms unaffected.

Questions to consider

Making a change in the site of the high school to any of these possible locations would involve answering many questions.

Among those to consider: The Mirak property has long been in private hands, owned by the Mirak family. The Summer Street property comes under the Park & Recreation Commission and is the site of what makes Arlington "hockey town." The property near St. Camillus, considered in the past for housing, includes a ball field. The 17-acre Mugar site has been targeted for 219 units of housing by a North Cambridge developer, a projected delayed for more than a year by a town zoning board appeal

The MSBA prefers 25 acres for a site, Chapdelaine told YourArlington on Dec. 20.

Most of the time at the Dec. 19 meeting encompassed discussion of the upcoming communications effort about the high school and how it should be best expressed to the public.

Details about first of 3 forums

A community forum about the project, called a "kickoff" and planned to be interactive, is set for 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 4, at Town Hall.

This initial forum will discuss the project schedule and study process as the district works with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) to update the school.

Representatives from HMFH and Skanska will be present. This fall, the town and MSBA jointly chose architectural firm HMFH to initiate the study of the school and to develop schematic plans. Skanska was chosen as the owner's project manager. 

The interactive part of the forum will include eight to 12 participants sitting at tables. All tables will respond to the same four basic questions, followed by 45 minutes of discussion and a conclusion to share answers. Bodie read some of the questions: What do you like (or dislike) about AHS? What are the biggest challenges to a renovation?

The public has several ways to take part during the feasibility phase this winter. Following the Jan. 4 event will be by three more such forums, addressing various aspects of the feasibility phase.

Following a half-hour presentation about the feasibility process will be small-group brainstorming discussions, and an opportunity to share the ideas developed in discussions with the whole group.

Save the dates for future AHS project forums: Feb. 7, March 5 and April 4, all from 7 to 9 p.m., at Town Hall.

Be part of educational visioning

The public is also invited to be part of the Educational Vision Committee. 

A Dec. 21 news release says: "We are also seeking individuals who would like to be deeply involved in the educational vision for Arlington High School." It will meet in January and February.

"The composition of the AHS Educational Visioning Committee will be weighted toward educators and students. The committee will also include representation from many voices in Arlington: parents of Arlington students at all levels, parents of children not yet attending school, town officials, Arlington High School Building Committee members, and community members. This committee will delve deeply into crafting the Educational Vision for the school.

"The educational vision will describe the specific curricula, courses and programs that will be offered at Arlington High School. It is a key driver of the design for the building. For example, the outline of the science, arts and mathematics curricula will inform the design of classrooms, labs and program spaces allocated for those courses and programs." 

When 60-member committee is to meet

Those involved are seeking a 60-member committee with representation from many stakeholder groups. Members must commit to attending all three meetings at Arlington High School Old Hall, all from 2 to 6 p.m.: Jan. 18, Feb. 2 and Feb. 13 (snow date: Feb. 15).

The committee's work will be facilitated by David Stephen of New Vista Designs for Learning. He facilitated teacher and community input for the Gibbs School project.

To be considered, complete the application by Jan. 7. Applicants will be notified of their acceptance, or not, by Jan. 11.

You may apply online to the Educational Vision Committee >>

If you cannot apply electronically, paper copies of the application will be available in the Arlington High
School's and Ottoson Middle School's Main Offices through Jan. 7.

Note: The administration will hold a lottery to choose members if a high number of a particular stakeholder group apply.

Students will be participating in the educational-vision process, but will be recruited separately. School Committee members will also participate.

If you cannot attend any of the forums, you will able to provide your input in other ways, including electronically.

To learn more about the AHS project, and to receive updates by email, visit www.ahsbuilding.org or follow progress on Facebook >> 

For specific information about the feasibility phase, read the site's blog >>


 Official information about the high school building project
Dec. 12, 2017: AHS Building Committee prepares to focus on its visions'
Nov. 11, 2017: Cost, timeline, design for a changed Arlington High emerges
Oct. 24, 2017: Designer chosen for revamped Arlington High project
Oct. 4, 2017: 3 finalists chosen to design revamped Arlington High
May 25, 2016: State says Arlington High School rebuild can advance
Feb. 15, 2017: Arlington High School rebuild OK'd for next stage: Is it feasible? 
State Building Authority process >> 

This news summary was published Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017, and updated Dec. 21, to add link to online application plus details.

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