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AHS rebuild process moves toward one design by end of June

Use of current Minuteman an unlikely option | Design feedback was sought until June 14

Preferred Options 041118 400April 10, 2018: Preferred designs for a new Arlington High School by HMFH Architects of Cambridge. These options are 1 through 4, clockwise from top left. Watch the ACMi video of the June 4 forum >>

UPDATED, June 15: An estimated 200 people in Town Hall on Monday, June 4, saw details about four proposed designs for a new Arlington High School, and then many provided feedback to the committee that will recommend one proposed design to the state by the end of June.

Brief summaries of each design are below. First, consider what questions the designs spurred. Here are some selected queries and responses:

-- If construction displaces students to an off-campus location, where will they go?

One suggestion, aired since spring and repeated at the fifth forum, has been the current Minuteman High School in Lexington. That is not expected to be an option.

Dr. Edward Bouquillon, Minuteman superintendent, said in a telephone interview June 5 that timing and the school's contract with the Mass. School Building Authority makes it unlikely that current school will be available when AHS students need it.

The new Minuteman is scheduled to open near the current school, just across the border in Lincoln, in September 2019. If an override vote is successful next year, construction on a new AHS is to start in May 2020. Depending on which design is chosen, full occupancy would occur from 2023 to 2026.

"I would welcome [Arlington High] students here," he said, but keeping the school open for that purpose in a time frame that remains unclear, would mean the state would hold back money until it was demolished.

-- 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.

-- Will there be air-conditioning?

A knowing laughter greeted that one. The answer: Yes.

-- If construction displaces students to an on-campus location, where will they go?

Lori Cowles, representing HMFH, the project architect, plans remain to be determined, but using modular classrooms, as has been done during Thompson and Stratton construction, would be considered.

-- Why not let the public vote on the four design options? "We're paying for it," the questioner said.

Cowles said the 20-member building committee were volunteers represent various parts of the community and have been given the task to decide. Jeff Thielman, building committee chairman, said that rules under process outlined by the state authority do not allow such a vote.

-- Which of the four designs are most likely to lead to cost overruns and delays?

Cowles did not break down her response by referring to each design, but said risk of those factors could be higher with a renovation rather than a full rebuild. She said her company has record of a low number of change orders per project.

-- What are the pros and cons to renovating as compared to rebuilding?

Cowles said, whatever design is chosen and whatever the approach, the resulting building must come up to code and that new construction is "tight"; that is, results in energy-efficient structures.

-- How sustainably efficient will the new school be in, say, 75 years?

Cowles notes a variety of systems to rate that and said she hopes the result would be "close to net zero." 

-- Because parking was cited as an issue in all four designs, one asked whether a parking structure could be added.

The response: The state would not reimburse those costs.

-- Alan Jones, vice chair of the Finance Committee, asked whether the proposed green roofs might become "dead roofs"; that is, unused.

Cowles said she hoped they will be functional and said science teachers aim to map out uses.

-- Questions that received a "yes":

Whether there will be solar panels, improved sidewalks, clearer signs, the ability to expand buildings (in the rear, toward Peirce Field), enough program stage space.

-- A question that received a "don't know":

Whether parking improvements will result in removing parking signs in the immediate neighborhood, installed to discourage student parking there.

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

Estimated costs were described at the meeting as "very preliminary":

Option 1: $289 million

-- Two renovated additions; two all-new construction, built in existing footprint.

-- The Rear portion of the building has six floors.

-- Old Hall and "The Pit" (used for wrestling) would be retained.

-- Initial occupancy expected in February 2022; full occupancy in January 2026, with completion by that May.

Option 2: $298 million

-- Two wings built closer to Mass. Ave. on five-acre front green space.

-- Entrance for the community in the rear.

-- Also retaining Old Hall and "Pit" plus historical features.

-- Initial occupancy expected in January 2022; full occupancy in January 2025.

Option 3: $293 million

-- All-new construction, with STEAM (science, tech, engineering, arts, math) and humanities wings, both four stories, on the front green.

-- "The more you build upfront, the more room you have in the back to develop," Cowles said.

-- Initial occupancy expected in January 2022; full occupancy in September 2024.

Option 4: $287 million

-- Also all-new construction, but the entire package pushed closest to Mass. Ave., eliminating the front green.

-- Auditorium and gym in the middle, with classes arranged around them.

-- Full occupancy in September 2023.

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 final design is chosen by month's end, it heads this summer to the authority, where its officials evaluate it according to the agency's guidelines. The project then 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.

The last AHS Building Committee meeting this month is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 26, in the School Committee Room, sixth floor, AHS.

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 
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 announcement was published Monday, May 14, 2018, and updated June 6, to report a full summary and the next day, to add links. Updated June 13, to add ACMi link.

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