SOMERVILLE – Somerville is one step closer to a renovated or new high
school after the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) voted on Wednesday to invite Somerville Public Schools into MSBA’s eligibility period, which is the first step in the application process for State funding for renovation or replacement of the school.
The City and School District now have 270 days from the vote in which to take the required steps needed for the MSBA to then approve the district for the next phase of the application process, which is the feasibility study phase. If a feasibility study is approved, an evaluation of Somerville High School’s existing conditions would be conducted to determine whether renovating the current school or building a new school would yield the most educationally appropriate and cost effective solution to the challenges posed by the current 142-year-old building.
A 2012 report by Maguire Group Inc. (MGI) cited approximately $10 million in high priority structural repairs and replacements at Somerville High School needed over the next four years. In its report, MGI noted repairs needed to aging windows, roofing, and brick façade, among other areas. Somerville High School was originally constructed in 1872 and the central wing of the high school was opened in 1895, with final remodeling conducted in 1986 when the Career, Vocational and Technical wing and Field House were added. No major changes or improvements have been made to the exterior of the building in approximately 24 years. Needs within the building include modern heating, ventilation and air cooling (HVAC) system, updated science labs, updated electrical and communication systems and improved energy efficiency, among others.
The MSBA will work with the Somerville School District during the eligibility period to determine its financial and community readiness to enter the program’s capital pipeline (in other words, to move forward in the application process for funding). Requirements to move into the feasibility study period include:
· An Initial Compliance Certification that confirms the District’s understanding of the grant program’s rules
· Formation of a School Building Committee with membership approved by the MSBA
· A summary of the District’s existing maintenance practices
· Certification of an agreement between the City and MSBA that the design of the proposed project will be based on a set student enrollment number, determined by an analysis of enrollment projections and space capacity
· Approval by the Board of Aldermen for the appropriation of funds to cover the full cost of a feasibility study
· Execution of the MSBA’s Feasibility Study Agreement, which establishes the process by which the District would be reimbursed for eligible expenses
“We’re excited about the opportunity to move forward in this process, and thank the MSBA for their support,” said Superintendent Tony Pierantozzi. “This 142-year old building has served the Somerville community well. We’re proud of the learning environment that our students and staff have created within the walls of Somerville High School, and the success our students have attained as a result of that environment. The reality is, however, that a building this old presents many challenges and limitations. Our students, staff and community will enjoy even greater success in a state-of-the-art learning environment and community facility.”
“Our schools’ steady pursuit of excellence led to MCAS results last year that put Somerville’s student growth on par with some of the highest performing districts in Massachusetts. Our students who are achieving excellence also deserve an excellent facility that meets their needs and creates the right environment for a 21st century education,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “With more families looking to move to Somerville and more families planning to stay here, we need a modern facility that not only accommodates our growing enrollment, but has the capacity to allow our teachers to implement the innovative curriculum that will best enable our students to achieve both academic success and success in their adult lives. I’m thankful the MSBA has approved this first step and I look forward to us working together to develop a plan that benefits all our students, families and the community as a whole. ”
The MSBA’s program for school building construction and renovation grants is a non-entitlement competitive grant program. Grants are distributed by the MSBA’s Board of Directors based on need and urgency, as expressed by the District and validated by the MSBA. Since its inception in 2004, the MSBA has reimbursed more than $10 billion for school construction projects.