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DESIGN CHOSEN: High school to be rebuilt, not renovated

Committee votes, 15-1, to support one option; chair lays out reasons

ahs option3A 400 62718Option 3A by HMFH Architects of Cambridge chosen by the building committee June 26, with the performing-arts center moved to the front. See added diagrams for this option >>

UPDATED, June 29: The Arlington High School Building Committee voted, 15-1, Tuesday, June 26, to recommend to the state a design that rebuilds the 104-year-old high school with the auditorium in the front.

The state School Building Authority plans to vote on Arlington's choice in late August, described as alternative 3A/3B in this link showing four options >>

Community feedback summary >>

The still-early, rough estimate of that option's cost is $308 million, with Arlington paying $211 million of that projected total.

Building Committee Chairman Jeff Thielman noted that committee member Kirsi Allison-Ampe voted for option 2B because it would give AHS more space. That option would maintain Fusco and Collumb House, though both would have been renovated.

Why committee supported option

In an email June 26, Thielman wrote the committee chose 3A for these reasons:

AHS 300This image of Arlington High School in winter is preparing for changes as a state vote is awaited this summer.

• Least expensive of leading three options and likely the least expensive to operate (due to potential for higher energy efficiency);

• Meets the educational vision;

• Strong alignment with guiding principles;

• Use of front green shortens construction time and creates swing space;

• Likely the most energy efficient and likely able to achieve this at lower cost than other options due to smallest exterior wall area and all-new construction; 

• Good rooftop solar potential;

• Opens up more space in rear of building;

• Best parking layout;

• Good connections to nature and ample and varied exterior green space to use;

• New building, less risk for unknown/unanticipated costs;

• New building affords more opportunity for sustainability (thicker walls, etc.) and highest potential to meet net-zero goal;

• Maintains some of front green;

• Building new wings provides swing space and reduces need for modular classrooms;

• Core educational wings in front of building;

• All new construction;

• Fewer contamination issues;

• Performing arts closer to Mass. Ave.;

• Keeps all “public” areas (theater, gymnasium, cafeteria) to one side, greater after-hours security controls;

• Smaller academic wing at front could overlap with adult-education uses, greater after-hours controls;

• Physical-education spaces have good adjacencies to a future fieldhouse;

• Central spine connecting front and back provides a strong visual connection through the buildings and potential as an activated common gathering space;

• Preschool off Mill Brook Drive provides separate arrival/departure on a “calmer” street;

• Good preschool to nurse adjacency;
• District administration off Mill Brook Drive creating some space between high school and central administration;

• Library in hub of school w/o being a pass-through space;

• Gap between first and second floor between the two eastern wings could allow topography to slope and allow first-floor rooms better opportunity for natural light; and

• Building configuration allows greater opportunity to make Mass. Ave. to Mill Brook Drive connection on the exterior. 

School Committee member Jennifer Susse It wrote on the Arlington Enrollment Facebook group June 26 that it "was a very thorough and thoughtful process. A huge thank you to all the people who put in multiple hours on this committee so far."

She noted that the design chosen means that modular classrooms are not expected to be needed.

Next steps

In a news release June 26, Bodie said the next step in the process is for Skanska USA Building, the owner's project manager, to submit on behalf of the district the design to the state building authority on or before July 11.

Assuming it is approved at its August meeting, the schematic design phase of the project will begin. During that phase, a more detailed design of the building will be developed to establish the project scope, budget and schedule for the proposed project.

The authority's board of directors will need to approve the proposed project in order to enter into agreements for project scope, budget and funding with the district.

Arlington voters will need to approve Arlington’s share of the cost before construction plans are developed. As was true during the feasibility study, the community will have opportunities for input regarding the design of the new school.

"Thank you to everyone who has participated in the process that led to the decision last night," she wrote. "The AHSBC looks forward to your continued participation as we move forward together to provide a 21st century high school for the children in Arlington.

June 4 forum

On June 4, an estimated 200 people in Town Hall saw details about four proposed designs for a new Arlington High School, and then many provided feedback to the committee.

A speaker called the fourth design option -- all-new construction, closest to Mass. Ave. and would open the latest -- "horrible," presumably referring to its boxy appearance and lack of historical detail.

It drew the loudest applause of the night and only smiles from those on stage. Other comments sparking applause were those urging a sustainable structure and recommending how the site uses green space.

See all four options here (all have 250 parking spaces on 400,000-square-foot site) >>

Estimated costs were described June 4 as "very preliminary"; they still are, but the link to four options with this summary shows further specificity, particularly with respect to the projected amount the town is expoected to pay.

Overview of process, aims

The June 4 presentation was the fifth public this year about the new high school as the project continues in the state School Building Authority's feasibility phase.

After a state vote this summer, the project moves to the schematic-design phase, in which the architect and Skanska, the owner's project manager, develop a final design.

A new high school would increase classrooms to 60, from 47; increase labs to 17 having the right size, from 11; increase gym space to 16,000 square feet, from 12,000; and provide for a 9,000-square-foot auditorium to accommodate 900 people.

The school would add two maker spaces plus five special labs, have a 30-percent larger library and a 20-percent larger cafeteria.

A new high school is needed because the current building, parts originally built in 1914, can't accommodate the number of students. The administration received a warning about accreditation in 2013 and must address it by 2023.

The town has chosen to work with the state School Building Authority. The agency's process, while restrictive, provides for part of the project costs.

Town voters in June 2016 approved a ballot question for $2 million to pay for the feasibility study.  A public vote on high school costs is expected next spring.

To learn more about the AHS project, and to receive updates by email, visit or follow progress on Facebook >>  For specific information about the feasibility phase, read the site's blog >>

Four options compared June 26, 2018 

June 6, 2018: AHS rebuild process moves toward one design by end of June

 Official information about the high school building project  
June 7, 2018: Official summary of June 4 meeting
April 13, 2018: Town manager clarifies costs for new AHS: It's still early
March 7, 2018: THIRD FORUM: 100 tour AHS, look into future; hear flexibility touted
Jan. 12, 2018: 125 attend as public process to launch AHS update underway
Dec. 20, 2017: Could new AHS be built elsewhere in town? 4 sites suggested
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, June 27, 2018, and updated June 29, to add a link to diagrams below the closen design and to add a libnk to the feedback summary.

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