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AHS rebuild committee supports refined design

More-precise cost estimates for project made public

Option 2, HMFH, Jan. 22, 2019Arlington High School design. / HMFH

UPDATED, Jan. 30: With some feeling the weight of what town voters might accept, members of the Arlington High School Building Committee have supported a fresh exterior design fronting near Mass. Ave., mixing older and newer elements.

The vote on Tuesday, Jan. 22, to merge two of seven options came days before the committee was to find out about a more precise estimate of the project's total cost, which the state has capped at $308 million. That occurred at the meeting set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29, and is reported separately here >>

In other key news from that meeting, the committee:

-- Voted to use the Parmenter School only as a temporary location for Menotomy Preschool during construction of AHS and not for permanent relocation of either the preschool or the district administration offices. For more, click here >> 

-- Learned that for the project upgrading the DPW's Town Yard to go forward, the town will have to own property that includes a home on Grove Street abutting the yard.

Option 4, HMFH, Jan. 22, 2019Option 4 has an entryway that a majority of committee want to be applied to Option 2.

-- Heard continuing plans for access behind AHS connecting Mill and Grove streets, but, if established, the way would be open only for parts of the day, before and after school opens.

Vote of 11-2-1

After discussing at length seven AHS design options (one is numbered 1A), presented by Lori Cowles, principal at project architect HMFH, the committee voted, 11-2-1, to favor merging two of them. Those are No. 2, a variation on the overall design for the front of AHS supported Dec. 4, and No. 4. See both in the images accompanying this summary. The merged design would place the higher entryway from No. 4 on No. 2.

Chairman Jeff Thielman asked members to rank their top-two choices. In general, the versions from 1 through 6 ranged from more traditional to less so. See all options at this link >> 

Which options some members favor

Superintendent Kathleen Bodie favored a variation of No. 1, adding, "... as we look to the override."

The Select Board on Jan. 23 unanimously supported a debt exclusion for the AHS project as well as an operating override for the town.

Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine backed 2 and 4, the eventual committee favorites, and John Cole, an architect, agreed.

Deputy Town Manager Sandy Pooler was willing to split the range, supporting 6 and "kind of" liking 1.

Principal Matt Janger made one choice, 1, and Kent Werst, an AHS math teacher, said he was keeping voters in mind by agreeing with Janger, with possibilities for 2 or 4.

Assistant Principal William McCarthy, who later abstained, chose 2 and 1. Ryan Katofsky, the panel's sustainability point man, picked 2 and 5. Member Dan Ruiz, an architect, pointed to 3 and 2.

A surprise was the second choice from always sober Kirsi Allison-Ampe, 2 and 6. The latter has the most futuristic entry. Thielman went with 4 and 2.

The committee voted on Chapdelaine's motion to direct the architect to develop No. 2, with advice from Cole about 4.

An audience of 5

The vote occurred as five people in the audience watched. None spoke at public participation, and the usual representatives of Save Our Historic Arlington High School were not present.

Since summer, that group has urged retaining the 1938 white columns, modeled after the Bulfinch-designed Boston State House, as well as the large green space along Mass. Ave. More recently, group spokesman Carl Wagner has also criticized the proposed transportation pattern, which includes access between Mill and Grove.

Discussion during the 3 1/2-hour meeting acknowledged the group's impact. Cowles noted that 10 of 15 on the committee had told the architect to keep the existing columns. At the same time, she expressed frustration. If the design is controlled by the AHS entrance that public has traditionally seen, "Why have an architect?"

Discussion about D-Lab

Much back-and-forth involved where the Discourse Lab should go. Known as D-Lab, the structure will house a 120-seat lecture classroom for shared teaching and small group programs, debates or trainings.

A representative of HMFH suggested the D-Lab could be the highlight of building.

Janger said he is not picky about where it is placed. McCarthy suggested having it near the entrance, in part for security reasons. Janger agreed.

Ruiz argued for the lab's prominence and thought the public should be able to see what is going on there through windows, countering Bodie's view of less visual access. Member Frank Callahan agreed about its prominence.

auditorium diagram

Thielman suggested directing HMFH to look at the impact of placing D-Lab to the rear of AHS, "as we prepare for the [debt exclusion] campaign." Ruiz expressed fears about asking HMFH to design this after Feb. 12, the date that documents are to go to the Mass. School Building Authority.

Positioning the auditorium

In a separate matter, the committee voted unanimously about where to position the proposed auditorium. A drawing showed it within red and yellow lines; one would tilt it at an angle.

See the image, at left, showing red and yellow orientations.

Chapdelaine suggested that following the yellow outline would risk too much green space, an issue, he said, where the committee has made "a lot of headway."

Bodie voted for the yellow, and all others for the red.

Quote bar, redUpcoming schedule   AHS project

All meetings in School Committee Room, sixth floor, Arlington High. 

Tuesday, Jan. 29, 6 p.m.: Building committee to receive the refined estimates from Skanska, and members plan to review them. 

Wednesday, Jan. 30, 5:30 p.m.: School Committee to discuss priorities in case the building committee needs or wants to make reductions. 

Thursday, Jan. 31, 6 p.m.: Building committee to further discuss estimates and reductions (if needed or desired) and to vote on the final budget for the building.

 Quote bar, red

Jan. 22, 2018, HMFH full presentation >> 

Jan. 19, 2019: Board weighs where to site prekindergarten, district offices in AHS rebuild
Jan. 15, 2019: Second AHS rebuild forum draws estimated 200 -- 25 with questions 
First forum, Nov. 28, 2018: Fears about cost may divide town, but numbers face more scrutiny
Dec. 5, 2018: AHS rebuild committee directs architect to work with tradition
Nov. 24, 2018: AHS rebuild committee reviews 3 new exterior designs, gives go-ahead to memorial effort
Nov. 10, 2018: AHS design discussion turns to interior ideas, and reaction is positive
Sept. 5, 2018: AHS rebuild design raises questions, but process has just begun
Aug. 29: AHS rebuild approved to move on to schematic design stage
June 26, 2018: DESIGN CHOSEN: High school to be rebuilt, not renovated
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: 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: Designer chosen for revamped Arlington High project
Oct. 4, 2017: 3 finalists chosen to design revamped Arlington High

This news summary was published Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, and updated Jan. 30.

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