SHS BUILDING COMMITTEE TO DISCUSS PROJECTED COSTS, FINANCING OPTIONS AT UPCOMING MEETINGS

  

Costs of preferred option expected to range from $160M to $230M. Financing options to be determined in coming weeks. Public input still sought via public meetings, SBC webpage.

 

SOMERVILLE – Following its selection of the preferred option, “4b,” for the proposed renovation or rebuilding of Somerville High School last month, the Somerville High School Building Committee (SBC) presented potential costs and additional analysis for the proposed building at its regular meeting on May 9. Stressing that potential costs and cost drivers remain flexible due to a variety of factors including construction fees and items related to the project’s Education Plan goals, the SBC estimates that costs to the City could range from $160 million to $230 million, after eligible reimbursements from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA). Financing options have not yet been determined, however Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone and SBC members also affirmed their commitment to negotiate costs as low as possible before voting on the final preferred option to present to the MSBA in June.

 

Somerville High School is one of the oldest secondary schools in New England that has not undergone extensive 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, including the potential for the school to lose its accreditation, building and structural issues, and high energy consumption. An estimated $130 million would be needed just to bring the existing building up to current code.

 

“Throughout this process, the Committee researched and reviewed similar projects across the region, and I am confident that the preferred option selected by the SBC would best meet the goals of the Education Plan that is essential to any future for our high school, and for the needs of our students in a 21st century learning environment,” said Mayor Curtatone. “Initial estimates for this option are higher than we had anticipated, however I submit that the cost of doing nothing is high. To simply bring the current high school up to code – improvements to the roof, heating and cooling systems, accessibility, and exterior envelope – would require a minimum of $130 million, and would not come close to meeting those educational needs. We will do everything in our power to reduce the burden to taxpayers for this essential project, but I want to be forthcoming in noting that this project cannot and will not be able to move forward without a debt exclusion option put to the voters on the upcoming ballot.”

 

The final project estimate will be determined in upcoming SBC meetings, and are dependent on additional features being considered for the building, including: parking options and athletic fields, a larger auditorium, program spaces for child care, public access television, and a health clinic, and options for increasing energy efficiency. Financing options for the project are yet to be determined, though options that may be considered by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen include a Proposition 2 ½ debt exclusion, utilizing reserves, revenue from building permits associated with new developments, and other various charges.

 

“The SBC has worked diligently with the design team to determine the very best option for all parties – students, community, and residents – while remaining cognizant of the financial obligations that such an important project will create,” said SBC Chairman, Tony Pierantozzi. “The Committee has focused on making sure that the cost estimates include as many possible expenses as can be foreseen, and that cost escalators have been included for the construction period so as not to underestimate the total project cost.”

 

“This Committee has spent countless hours visiting surrounding districts to research and compare similar projects that set great standards for 21st century learning environments, as set forth in our own Educational Plan,” said Alderman at Large Mary Jo Rossetti. “Our families, staff, and students are dependent upon us to continue our commitment in responding to the Accreditation Report and its recommendation, and ensuring the best possible opportunities for our young residents.”

 

“SHS has, by student academic growth, been the top performing urban high school in the state in recent years. We’re blessed with great educators and great students, but the facility, while well-maintained, is not best suited for the 21st century education plan we’re moving forward with,” said School Committee Representative Steve Roix. “It’s clear that SHS needs a building that better supports a flexible, 21st century education model. I think we have a plan to do this, and I’m excited to have the conversation with our community about supporting this important work.”

 

“The most important work we do is preparing our youth for leadership and good citizenship,” said Mary Skipper, Superintendent of Schools. “The Educational Plan around which this project was designed serves as the foundation of the project and reflects the skills and experiences that will best help today’s youth prepare to become our community’s future leaders, caretakers, and change agents. I am incredibly grateful for the commitment that the SBC has demonstrated in ensuring that this critical community project reflects not only the educational needs of our students, but also the hopes and wishes of the Somerville community.”

 

Members of the public are invited to attend to provide feedback and participate in a public discussion with the Mayor and SBC on Mon., May 23. The meeting will be held at the SHS Auditorium, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Additional public forums will be scheduled, and will be announced at a later date. Updated project information and meeting schedules are available at http://www.somervillema.gov/highschool.

The SBC was convened in September 2015 to identify the educational plan and an associated facility that would meet the needs of the 21st century learning environment. The committee reviewed options for renovation or replacement of the current school that would support that proposed educational plan. Those options included: base repair, full renovation, addition/renovation, new construction at the existing site, or new construction at another site. Following discussion of nine proposed options, the SBC voted to submit one, “4b,” for final review by the MSBA. The option, along with final cost estimates, will be submitted to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen later this year.

 

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