Committee will seek public input on proposals in March and April before sending preferred option(s) to MSBA.
SOMERVILLE – A new future for Somerville High School is one step closer to realization following a vote by the Somerville High School Building Committee (SBC) Wednesday night, but the City and School District need your help in determining a final proposal for the school’s ultimate renovation or rebuild. At Wednesday’s meeting, the 14-member Committee discussed the educational plan created by the school department, and options for renovation or replacement of the current school that would support that proposed educational plan. Those options include: base repair, full renovation, addition/renovation, new construction at the existing site, or new construction at another site. The Committee approved nine options to be submitted for review by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA).
The SBC was convened in September 2015 to identify the educational plan and associated facility that would meet the needs of the 21st century learning environment. Following the submission to the MSBA, the SBC will work with a team of Architects and Owner’s Project Managers to solicit feedback from the Somerville community on viable proposals, and explore all potential funding options before selecting a preferred option for final submission in June.
“I want to thank the members of the Building Committee for their detailed research and analysis of a wide variety of options to better suit the needs of our student population, which deserves a top quality, 21st century facility to meet the needs of the top quality education we offer in the Somerville Public Schools,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “This vote is just one step in the overall process in ensuring we, as a community, reach a decision that best meets the needs of our students and families.”
“Our students deserve a sound educational facility that meets today’s curriculum needs and our community deserves a careful and thorough process to determine the best approach to achieve that,” said Alderman at Large and Aldermanic Representative to the SBC Mary Jo Rossetti. “I‘m looking forward to the community being part of this conversation as this process continues.”
The City of Somerville was accepted into the feasibility study phase of MSBA’s grant program for school building construction and renovation projects in November, 2014. The discussion surrounding the need for renovating or building a new high school, however, has been ongoing in the community for decades. With the oldest sections of the school built in the late 1800s, Somerville High School is one of the oldest schools in New England that has not undergone renovation. In 2015, City and School officials determined there is a more urgent need for review and research on renovation or rebuilding needs due to several important factors:
· The school’s accreditation could be at stake. At its most recent review by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), it was stated that progress toward renovation or construction was expected by the next meeting or the School’s accreditation will be in jeopardy. A high school that loses accreditation would impact students applying for college acceptance and possibly employment.
· Building condition and structural issues. The building’s exterior is failing and the overall building and systems are in poor condition. Aging systems in the current building result in significantly higher maintenance and operating costs.
· High energy consumption. Energy consumption in the existing building is exorbitant. The steam heating system is antiquated and inefficient resulting in inadequate ability to regulate classroom temperatures. The building lacks proper insulation in the walls and roof, windows are single pane and inadequate to keep heat in the building.
Consistent with MSBA requirements, the City evaluated alternatives that range from base code upgrades only to full renovation, addition, and new building options. Potential project cost, and cost to the City, is still being developed.
Essential to the PDP submission is the Educational Program Plan, a projection of future educational programs that serves as the basis for justification of proposed building size, and space needs. The Plan takes into account current and projected future educational programs, and spaces needed to accommodate those programs.
The Somerville High School Educational Program Plan reflects a student-centered and personalized learning experience facilitated through the use of multiple contemporary educational delivery methodologies. Such an experience can be greatly enhanced in a building that offers flexible and adaptable learning spaces that provide opportunities for “anywhere, anytime” learning and that can meet the evolving needs of a diverse learning community. The development of critical 21st Century skills such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking, problem-solving, and global citizenship, is best achieved in a physical learning environment that supports interdisciplinary work, and which allows for real-world connections as part of an interactive, robust, and engaging daily learning experience.
“It’s great to see this moving forward,” added Steve Roix, Somerville School Committee member and School Committee representative to the SBC. “SHS is a great school and I look forward to continuing the conversation with our community to see how we can create a modern facility that is efficient, and well-suited to accommodating the world-class 21st century education our students deserve.”
“This is an amazing opportunity for current and future Somerville Public Schools families to be a part of,” stated Superintendent of Schools, Mary Skipper. “This project will help Somerville blaze a trail to provide a first-class 21st century global high school education to every student in our district, and provide our students with every opportunity for college and career success. By providing students with a strong foundation in a learning environment that fosters a deep appreciation for creative and critical thinking, we are not only preparing them for academic success, but also for future leadership roles in an evolving world.”
“It is extremely gratifying to work on this project, which ultimately will result in a 21st century high school and a community center that can be used for many activities for the benefit of our youth and residents,” said Tony Pierantozzi, Chairman of the SBC, and former Somerville Superintendent of Schools.
Timeline and Next Steps
After receiving feedback from the MSBA on its proposals, the SBC will seek public input via community meetings and other feedback opporutunities before submitting its preferred option(s) in June. Please visit http://www.somervillema.gov/highschool for detailed documents and videos, and for information on upcoming meetings.