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First look at cost of a new Minuteman High: $79m to $106m

Minteman High School logo
"The need for building renovation/ replacement is well established, and four separate options have been developed." Sue Sheffler, Minuteman rep

Project architect calls new structure least expensive

UPDATED, Feb. 13: The estimated district share of a new Minuteman High School, in Lexington, ranges from $79.6 million to $105.9 million, depending on how it is rebuilt, school officials have been told.

The district share assumes that the state will cover at least 40 percent of the project.

What part of that range of costs Arlington would pay remains unclear at this stage.

At a Feb. 6 meeting with more than 30 town administrators and officials, Minuteman’s School Building Committee announced preliminary cost estimates for four alternatives: renovating the school with state financial help, renovating and expanding with state help, building a new school with state help and building a new school and demolishing the old one with state help.

In addition, a subcommittee released a cost analysis for a self-funded model that would be required if the project is rejected by any of the district’s 16 member towns.

Feb. 12, 2015: Open house for students parents March 5

According to Kaestle Boos Associates Inc., the project architect, building a new school is the least expensive of the four alternatives. It would cost $132.6 million, with the state paying at least $53 million and the district paying $79.6 million. Construction of a new building would take about 30 months to complete.

Renovating the existing school would cost the district $105.9 million and would take five years to complete. Renovating and adding onto the existing building would cost the district $105.2 million and take four years. Construction would occur while the school is occupied.

"The need for building renovation/replacement is well established, and four separate options have been developed," Sue Sheffler, Arlington's representative to the Minuteman School Committee, wrote in an email Feb. 10. "It is now our task to explore these options in detail, and determine what the best course of action is for Arlington.

Public involvement encouraged

"Over the next several months the public will have ample opportunity to learn and discuss options for updating Minuteman, including the costs and benefits to our Town and our students. I encourage our citizens to be as involved as they can in the process.

"Minuteman is a valuable educational resource for Arlington students who want to graduate high school with significant career skills. Arlington's enrollment of about 150 students annually is the highest of the 16 member towns in the Minuteman district. These students pursue combined skill-development and academic goals, including a high percentage of students who receive supplemental academic support."

In a Minuteman news release. Ford Spalding chair of the School Building Committee, which has been working with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) on the feasibility study for several years, commented:

"These are sound preliminary numbers. We want local officials and taxpayers from within the district to have an idea of the type of investment needed to continue to prepare our students for college and careers."

Now, and over the next several months, the building committee seeks feedback from the public, Spalding said. He said more detailed financial numbers will be generated once the district decides on a preferred option.

The School Building Committee also released an 11-page report, which it called "strongly worded, reviewing current building conditions and investigated whether the district could make repairs, without state help, over many years. The report, drafted by an eight-member subcommittee chaired by Dana Ham, described Minuteman’s building systems as "failing" and said "deteriorating conditions must be addressed."

'Do-nothing' option

The report dated Feb. 2 and titled "The 'Do Nothing' Option" describes the consequences for Minuteman High School if the school district does not approve one of the MSBA-funded building project options that address the deteriorating conditions of the existing school building. The introduction says: "This option can be described simply as 'self-funding' a portion of the proposed MSBA Renovation Project, but doing it more expensively, without MSBA, with serious disruptions in learning for students, and not accomplishing most of the new Education Program Plan."

In its report, the subcommittee soundly rejected the practicality of making repairs without participation from the MSBA. It said doing the work piecemeal would take longer, cost more, accomplish less and cause more disruption to students.

Doing the work without state help would also likely have a negative impact on student enrollment and retention and would jeopardize the school’s accreditation from the New England Association of Schools & Colleges, the report stated. NEASC placed the school on "warning" status in November 2012 due to the condition of the facility.

According to the report, doing the repairs over 10 years would cost either $71.7 million or $141.7 million, depending on whether Minuteman implements the new Educational Program Plan recommended last year by Minuteman’s 16-member school committee.

2 new career academies proposed

The new plan calls for the creation of two Career Academies and a Shared House, two new career and technical programs and the phase-out or upgrade of several others, resulting in 16 career majors serving 628 students, primarily from the 16 member towns.

Under either option, the repairs would need to be paid entirely by district taxpayers, the report said.

The report on the non-MSBA repair option also warned that costs were likely to escalate dramatically because the work would be done over such an extended period. The subcommittee also expressed concern that the district would be able to bond (borrow money) for this piecemeal approach.

The school and its consultants have been in a feasibility study with MSBA for nearly five years. Minuteman is an award-winning regional vocational technical high school that seeks to give its graduates a competitive edge in the new global economy by providing them with career skills -- plus a rigorous grounding in academics.

"We want all of our graduates to understand what they love to do and what they do well," said Dr. Edward A. Bouquillon, Superintendent-Director. "We want to help each of them discover their abilities and tie that to an occupation resulting in greater economic independence as that young person moves into adulthood."

At Minuteman, students can major in 19 career and technical education programs at the same time they take rigorous academic courses, including advanced placement courses. More than 60 percent of the school’s graduates pursue college or advanced training upon graduation.

During recent months, Minuteman has been featured in several state and national media outlets, including The Boston Globe, Boston Herald and National Public Radio. Minuteman was also featured in a book, Job U: How to Find Wealth and Success by Developing the Skills Companies Actually Need by Nicholas Wyman.

Besides Arlington, the Minuteman district includes Acton, Belmont, Bolton, Boxborough, Carlisle, Concord, Dover, Lancaster, Lexington, Lincoln, Needham, Stow, Sudbury, Wayland and Weston.

This story was published Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015, and updated Feb. 12 to add a link. The sources of all numbers in this report are Minuteman news releases.

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