MSBA Invites City of Somerville to Collaborate on Somerville High School Feasibility Study

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City, District one step closer to addressing challenges of 142-year old high school

Somerville, MA – The Board of the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) voted to extend an invitation to the City of Somerville to collaborate on conducting a Feasibility
Study for Somerville High School. The invitation puts Somerville one step closer to a long-term solution that would enable the City and the school district to address the challenges of an aging high school facility that serves more than 1,200 students each year. The original existing high school structure was built in 1872, with additions made in 1930 and 1985.

“We are committed to working with Somerville officials to find the best alternative for Somerville High School,” said State Treasurer Steven Grossman, Chairman of the MSBA in a late November announcement of the MSBA Board’s vote to approve the SHS Feasibility Study. “This collaboration will develop a cost effective solution that ensures Somerville students can develop and flourish in a state-of-the-art, 21st century learning environment.”

While the Feasibility Study does not indicate approval of a specific project, the study allows school district and City officials to work with the MSBA on an evaluation of Somerville High School’s existing conditions, and potential solutions to address any deficiencies. The feasibility study would help determine whether renovating the current school or building a new school would yield the most educationally appropriate and cost-effective solution for the 142-year-old facility.

“We look forward to working with the MSBA on this Feasibility Study and a schematic design for a modern high school. We appreciate their support as we look for ways to ensure that we are most effectively meeting the educational needs of Somerville youth,” said Superintendent of Schools Tony Pierantozzi. “There’s no question that great teaching and learning takes place within the walls of Somerville High School, a treasured community icon. Somerville High students and teachers have achieved much success, and will continue to do so because of their commitment to educational excellence, and our community’s commitment to our youth. We are eager to work with the MSBA on exploring ways in which we might address the challenges of an aging facility, and provide Somerville with a state-of-the-art high school facility that will effectively serve Somerville youth for decades to come.”

“The first class education delivered by our teachers deserves a first class facility,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “Somerville needs a modern high school building that can accommodate our growing enrollment and allow our educators to adopt even more innovative approaches. This study will help us determine how we can best create that modern building that, when matched with our teachers’ devotion and our modern, evidence-based educational approach, help our students reach their full potential, first academically and then as adults in the 21st century job market.”

A 2012 report by Maguire Group Inc. (MGI) identified the need for approximately $10 million in high priority structural repairs alone at Somerville High School. Among the needed repairs cited by MGI in that report were replacement of aging windows, roofing, the building’s brick façade, and others. Additional needs identified within the building include addition of a modern heating, ventilation and air cooling (HVAC) system, updated science labs, updated electrical and communication systems, and improved energy efficiency, among many other needs.

The original Somerville High School building, which is now the East Wing, was constructed in 1872. The central wing of the high school opened in 1895. In 1930, the West Wing was added to the Somerville High School footprint, and the Career, Vocational and Technical wing and Field House were added in 1985. No major changes or improvements have been made to the exterior of the high school in approximately 24 years. The most recent improvements to the now-394,132-square foot Somerville High School facility were rebuilding of the school’s auditorium and the cafeteria kitchen following extensive damage caused by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, which rendered the facilities unusable. Both facilities recently reopened, two years after the damage was sustained.

The Feasibility Study is the second step in the MSBA’s school building construction and renovation grants program, and will determine whether Somerville High School continues to move forward for consideration in the MSBA’s capital projects program pipeline. 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 $11 billion for school construction projects.

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