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At last, study spells out steps for Stratton revamp, if it can be funded

"There's a place for us, somewhere a place for us," the Arlington High School Madrigals sang, a rendition of a lyrical plea from "West Side Story" that moved School Committee Chairman Bill Hayner.

Stratton's hallway food service.Stratton's hallway food service.

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After so many years of waiting for its elementary school to be rebuilt, the Stratton community may be singing that, too.

The Madrigals performed this month as part of a State House ceremony commemorating the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001 -- 13 years ago, when Arlington was in the middle of rebuilding its seven elementary schools. The effort lost steam in 2003, when state funding dwindled. The fifth school, the Dallin, was dedicated in 2006, and the sixth, the Thompson, opened a year ago.

Now it's Stratton's turn at last for full-scale consideration. The School Committee got a first look at an architect's feasibility study Thursday, Sept. 18.

Charged with seeking parity in an upgraded Stratton compared to the town's other elementary schools, Drummey Rosane Anderson (DRA) appeared to have done just that, Superintendent Kathleen Bodie said.

Architect's rep explains

Carl Franceschi of DRA noted the library is significantly undersized, the kitchen is in a hallway, space for the nurse is tight and stairs do not comply with laws protecting the handicapped.

Stratton sign

On the plus side, kindergarten rooms and the cafeteria, which is also serves as an auditorium, are large.

Franceschi pointed to one key suggested change, aimed at avoiding some longtime issues in the 1962 structure: Move the library, which is undersized, to the ground-floor gym on the east side of the building, not used for an after-school program.

The report spells out four options, suggesting the steps for improvement throughout the school and what those steps would cost.

Read the whole report here >>

Over the years after state funds decreased for school construction, Bodie said the Stratton benefited from and a state grant for repairs and for work paid for by the town's capital plan: a roof for about half building, electricals, wireless, heating and windows.

Board member Kirsi Allison-Ampe asked the proposal puts Stratton on a one-on-one footing with Thompson with respect to detail.

"No, not specifically," Franceschi responded. "DRA's focus was on infrastructure."

Noting the current enrollment crunch at some schools because of increasing enrollment, Allison-Ampe asked, "Should we be thinking about building on space needs" at Stratton?

"I'm not sure Stratton is where we would do that," Bodie said. Member Paul Schlichtman later pointed to growth at Dallin and Brackett.

Funding focus

For Schlichtman, funding is the concern. He called option No. 3 "ideal" (see the options listed below).

For him, the question is: How to fund it?

Bodie said capitol planning has to "think it through .... I don't have an answer" [about funding]. She said she expected to apply to the state School Building Assistance Authority for "help." That agency is also considering Arlington's application to upgrade the century-old Arlington High School.

Member Jeff Thielman wondered whether Town Meeting might be considering a proposal next spring.

Diane Johnson, the schools' chief financial officer and a member of capital planning, the year the Stratton project is placed in the capital budget is not yet known.

The study, completed in August, is to go before the town's capital planning committee on Oct. 2.

Funding must be discussed, but when it comes up for a Town Meeting vote will depend what year capitol planning puts it in its budget.

Here are the options, with projected total and construction costs, taken from DRA study:

Scenario 1: Work to be done over nine years, in three three-year windows: $11,584,000 ($9,266,593, construction only)

This option considers the completion of the 2010/2011 work (windows, roof, HVAC) in the kindergarten wing as the first priority. The other scopes of work are spread over a multiyear phasing plan so that full accessibility upgrades are not triggered by renovation costs. This plan allows that Accessibility renovations can be phased over time as opposed to being required immediately.

The scheduled work occurs in packages occurring every 3 years to avoid the sliding window of the accessibility threshold. The first package includes the "base repairs," windows, roofing and HVAC replacement as well as some accessibility upgrades. The second package in Year 4 includes Program Changes (Media Center, Nurse, Administration and Food Services) as well as partial fire protection and lighting. The third and fourth Packages, shown in years 7 and 10 address the bulk of the parity issues and other priorities of the district.

Scenario 2: $10,460,000 ($8,308,046, construction only)

This considers an option where both the "base repairs" and programmatic changes (media center and administration/nurse/food services) are executed as early as possible, both being implemented in year 1. This scenario would trigger the accessibility threshold and would require that the complete facility be brought into full compliance with MAAB Regulations. This Scenario is organized in three phases with the largest scope of work occurring in year 1.

Lighting and fire protection and some of the parity issues are addressed in Year 3 with Year 5 capturing the balance of the renovations addressing parity issues and renovations to the Site not already covered under the accessibility upgrades in phase 1.

Scenario 3: Work done over three consecutive summers: $10,206,000 ($8,164,588, construction only)

This similar to scenario 2 but organizes the work into packages to be undertaken in three consecutive summers. This scenario would trigger the Accessibility threshold in year 1 and would require that the complete facility be brought into full compliance with MAAB Regulations. This scenario more evenly distributes the work, with programmatic changes (media center and administration/nurse/food services) as well as lighting and fire protection being addressed in year 2. Year 3 would capture the balance of the renovations addressing parity issues and renovations to the Site not already covered under the accessibility Upgrades in phase 1.

Scenario 4: A single project: $10,382,510 ($7,906,088, construction only)

This Option simply looks at addressing all of the scopes of work identified during the feasibility study. This option is advantageous in that all of the projects objectives are accomplished in the short term, however the cost far exceeds what has been discussed as the approximate project budget. Also, the extent of this project will likely extend the construction period beyond a summer recess and will require addition phasing/ scheduling consideration.

Please note that this study did not specifically consider the standards or guidelines established by the Massachusetts School Building Authority in identifying these areas of need; however certain elements of this program may in fact be prove to be eligible for reimbursement from the MSBA. Specifically, the MSBA has an accelerated repairs program that has, in the past, reimbursed districts for roof, window and HVAC repair projects. It is recommended that Arlington Public Schools contact the MSBA to discuss whether such reimbursements may be appropriate for the Stratton School.

Conclusion

The study concludes its executive summary:

"The estimated cost for all scopes of work, regardless of Sequencing or Phasing, is $7,906,008 Construction Cost and $9,882,510 Project Cost, all in 2014 year costs. The Project Cost includes Soft Costs such as Professional Fees, Testing and Inspections, Furnishings, Bidding Costs and Contingencies.

"This study provides the data to allow Arlington to make informed decisions regarding the future of the Stratton School. While no single option is recommended, there are several possible scenarios for the Town to consider depending upon scope, budget and schedule, that are outlined in Part IV, Scenarios." For that, see the full report.

Six members of the committee heard the presentation. Member Jud Pierce was absent, having has a previous commitment.

Principal Michael Hanna, who was present at the School Committee meeting, declined to comment about the plan the next day.

After the Madrigal Singers concluded "Somewhere," Hayner responded: "You make me proud to be a citizen of this community. You have outdone yourselves."


This story was published Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. The original headline said "rebuild"; that was changed to "revamp."

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