The Arlington High School Building Project encompasses all aspects of the planning and renovation/construction of the High School, including selection of the Owner’s Project Manager (OPM), designer and contractor, as well as oversight of the project.
The Town of Arlington has been invited into the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) process for the renovation/construction of Arlington High School. Acceptance to the MSBA program does not guarantee state funding. The MSBA approval process must be completed successfully for the state, via the MSBA, to provide significant financial assistance to the project. Local funding must also be assured through passage of a debt exclusion.
The educational program at Arlington High School remains one of the top in the state. However, the school’s facilities are in need of repair and need to be improved in order to be able to deliver a 21st century education.
The original building (now Fusco House) was built in 1914. Major additions were last done in 1960 and 1981. There has never been a major, top-down whole school renovation. At this point, many crucial systems and building components are at or beyond their expected service life.
In addition, in 2013, NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges) placed the High School on ‘Warning‘ status for school accreditation, citing inadequate classrooms, science labs, and technology infrastructure, which affect the overall learning environment for the students.
Swimming pools do not qualify for state funds from MSBA. Due to this restriction, the Town’s FY2019 capital budget includes $100,000 to fund a feasibility study for an aquatics center in Town along with assessing the needs and feasibility of meeting other recreational space needs in Town. The results of this study will determine next steps for considering these needs within the community.
The Mass. School Building Authority (MSBA) requires Arlington to look at multiple options, which could include a hybrid renovation/new construction approach. In March 2018, the AHS Building Committee determined that a renovation-only option for the future school is not suitable. In addition, the building committee explored alternative sites for the future school and determined the current site is the most appropriate choice.
In June 2018, the AHS Building Committee carefully selected a newly constructed high school as its preferred design concept.
The new construction building will consist of four wings connected to a central spine. The wings consist of a four-story STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Math) wing, a five-story Humanities wing, a two-story Performing Arts wing and a two-story Athletics wing. The central spine includes the cafeteria and library learning commons. Learn more about the design concept.
Once the full scope of the project has been determined, discussions will take place on where to house students during construction. During construction, minimizing student impact will be a high priority. When the construction schedule is created, accommodations will be made for performances, athletics, exams/testing periods, etc.
In the 2018-2019 school year, Arlington High School serves 1,390 students. The school district and the MSBA have agreed on a design enrollment number of 1,755 students for the project to account for anticipated growth.
There is strong desire to make the new AHS facility a net-zero energy building (meaning it produces as much energy as it uses over the course of a year). The AHS Building Committee has set aggressive energy goals and the new building will use geothermal and photovoltaic technology.
The Building Committee represents school and town leadership, School Committee, Facilities Department, educators, architects, life-long residents, sustainability professionals, parents, town meeting members and more. The Building Committee typically meets the first Tuesday of the month at 6pm in the School Committee room on the 6th floor of the Arlington High School. The meetings are open to the public. View the Building Committee calendar.
About ⅔ of the front green will be preserved as open space. The addition of outdoor spaces elsewhere on the campus will provide increased socializing and learning spaces for students while maintaining a secure and welcoming campus.
This was a very difficult decision and the building committee carefully weighed the pros and cons of each design concept as well as a variety of factors educational fit, layout, sustainability, construction timeline, disruption to students, cost and community feedback. Ultimately, the decision centered around whether to spend more money and make concessions in order to retain historic buildings or whether to build a new, lower cost, lower risk facility that would provide increased flexibility and sustainability features for many years to come. Many factors were considered when selecting the preferred design concept. In the end, the building committee selected a new building for the following reasons:
There is a higher risk of cost overruns when renovating historic buildings
More flexibility to build a facility that fully meets the needs of the school
Offers optimal sustainability and the highest potential to achieve the Net Zero goal by incorporating rooftop solar panels and the potential for geothermal wells.
More flexibility to incorporate technology needs
Unconstrained design flexibility (ceiling heights, location of large spaces such as cafeteria, auditorium and gym)
Shorter construction and lower estimated costs than either of the renovation/addition options
While these buildings have been part Arlington and the High School for a long time, they are not in Arlington’s historic district. The structures are also not included in the Massachusetts Historical Commission’s Inventory of Historic and Archaeological Assets of the Commonwealth, nor are they listed in the National and State Registers of Historic Places. The Massachusetts Historical Commission acknowledged the Town’s plans for a new High School.
In addition to chromium contamination under the athletic fields (which are currently capped), the soils under a portion of the existing school and drive areas are also contaminated and are currently “capped” by the existing building and black top. The project will include providing a contact cap of clean soil so the entire back portion of the site will be mitigated.
The front of the school is contaminated by chlorinated volatile organic compounds. The school construction will include a vapor mitigation system.
Mitigation of these environmental issues, as well as hazardous material abatement of the existing school building are factored into the cost estimates.
Estimates are for the new school to take 4 years and 10 months to build with construction beginning in July 2020, occupancy of the first phase components in January 2022 and final occupancy in September 2024. View thecurrent construction phase estimates.
Today’s 3rd graders will be the first Freshman class to enter an all-new, completed facility. Today’s Freshman, will benefit from the new STEAM and Auditorium wings that will be completed their senior year.
The current High School will function normally during the first phase of construction and it is a top priority to limit the disruption to students. Later phases will entail use of both new and existing buildings. At this time, due to the swing space created by building wings in front, it is anticipated that no modular classrooms will be needed.
The current school is 391,000 square feet, serving 1,390 students and the proposed new school is 411,360 square feet, and will serve 1,755 students. The current building has numerous, inefficient hallways and stairwells. Though only somewhat larger than the current facility, a newly designed school will greatly optimize space and increase efficient programming uses within the facility.
The proposed future school will include interior athletics facilities equal to existing facilities with the addition of an indoor walking track as part of the gymnasium. As part of the project, the current baseball field will be enlarged to qualify as a varsity baseball field. In addition, the softball field will be reconfigured and new, full size multi-sport practice fields will overlay both outfields. Both new fields will be artificial turf and will have lights.
Official correspondence with the MSBA uses a design concept numbering system from 1-8 based on the original 8 concepts submitted. When the Building Committee narrowed the design choices to four, they changed the numbering scheme to 1-4 for simplicity.
The project is currently in the Schematic Design phase which started in August 2018 and is anticipated to finish in April 2019. During the Schematic Design phase, more detailed designs and architectural decisions will be made.
During the Feasibility Phase earlier in the project (September 2017 – August 2018):
Skanska USA was hired as the Owner’s Project Manager (OPM)
During the winter/spring of 2018 numerous community and school/district staff conversations took place (read summaries of our community forums and Educational Visioning sessions). These conversations informed planning for the changes to the building.
HMFH Architects presented 8 preliminary options to the Building Committee in March and the Building Committee selected 4 options to further refine and explore.
The project is anticipated to enter the Schematic Design Phase in the Fall of 2018 where more detailed designs and architectural decisions will be made. Additional community forums will be scheduled at that time.
The Building Committee currently anticipates that construction would begin no earlier than Spring 2020. The length of the Construction Phase will be determined after the design has been completed and funding has been approved.
The project is currently anticipated to be a multi-phased construction project with partial occupancy in 2022 and full occupancy in 2024. More detailed construction timeline estimates will be determined when the Construction Manager is hired during the Design Development Phase.
In order to receive state funding for the project, the MSBA requires that each town go through a very specific and detailed process. In addition, there are many checkpoints along the process that require a vote from the MSBA Board of Directors before the project can move forward.
The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) is the government authority through which the Commonwealth of Massachusetts reimburses cities and towns for school construction projects. It participates in the management of any project that qualifies for reimbursement, and studies and designs that are eligible for funding must comply with its process and standards. For more information about the MSBA, visit its web site
The estimated impact to taxpayers is approximately $800 per year, based on an average assessed single- family home property value of $752,184 and assuming a 30 year level debt at 4% interest. The exact taxpayer impact will be determined in April when Arlington and the MSBA finalize Arlington’s share of the project as part of the Project Scope and Budget Agreement.
There are many components that contribute to the estimated cost of the new high school. Many of these components are not present in high school projects in other towns and thus make direct cost comparisons difficult. The following cost factors make the AHS Building Project different from other high school building projects:
AHS programs, services and resources that are beyond MSBA’s basic high school template: additional classrooms, larger library and stage as well as maintaining our 900 seat auditorium and athletic spaces.
Menotomy Preschool, the town’s state-mandated inclusion preschool.
Arlington Public Schools district administration and Payroll offices.
Arlington Community Education.
LABBB and other educational programs (LABBB is a special education collaborative program with Lexington, Arlington, Burlington, Bedford & Belmont).
Sustainability features to meet the project’s net-zero goal
Foundation preparation, mitigation of site contamination due to site complexities
During the Schematic Design phase, the Building Committee voted to remove the Town Comptroller and Town/School IT and Facilities Departments from the project.
For towns like Arlington, the MSBA typically funds 40-45% of eligible project costs, but many project costs are considered ineligible (examples: Town offices, hazardous site remediation, etc.). Exactly how much the MSBA will contribute to the project will be determined during MSBA’s Funding the Project Phase (estimated April 2019).
In June 2016, 76% of Arlington residents voted to approve spending $2 million on a Feasibility Study for the High School which only covers the planning stages of the project (Feasibility Study and Schematic Design Phases).
A debt exclusion is a temporary increase in taxes to pay for a specific debt – typically a capital expense such as a building renovation or repair. It is not permanent. When the project has been paid for, the temporary increase will be revoked and taxes reduced.
If you have questions that are not addressed in this FAQ, please email them to