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. HMFH Architects is currently exploring two renovation/addition options and two new construction options. The building committee will select one preferred option in July 2018.
In addition, the building committee explored alternative sites for the future school and determined the current site is the most appropriate choice.
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 2017-2018 school year, Arlington High School serves 1,322 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.
Specific sustainable goals will be determined during the Feasibility and Schematic Design phases. The Town of Arlington listed the following sustainable objectives in the Request for Designer Services: Northeast Collaborative for High Performance Schools (NE-CHPS) criteria or US Green Building Council’s LEED for Schools (LEED-S) Rating System; a Zero Net Energy Building (ZNEB) including designing to the future possibility of operating without fossil fuels.
The Building Committee represents school and town leadership, School Committee, Facilities Department, and community members. 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.
The project is currently in the Feasibility Phase which is anticipated to last 16-20 months. During the Feasibility Phase Skanska USA has been hired as the Owner’s Project Manager (OPM) and HMFH Architects has been selected as the project designer.
During the winter/spring of 2018 community and school/district staff conversations took place and an additional forum is planned for June 4. These conversations have 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 Building Committee will select one preferred option to send to the MSBA in July 2018.
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 completed between 2022 and 2024.
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
Preliminary estimates for a new/renovated high school are $287-$311M. Assuming an effective reimbursement rate from MSBA of 35%, a $298M building would cost the average tax payer $760 per year.
More refined cost estimates will be provided later in the process. Current estimates are based only on raw square footage. Arlington will not know the MSBA reimbursement rate until the Schematic Design phase.
For towns like Arlington, the MSBA typically funds 40-45% of eligible project costs. Exactly how much the MSBA will contribute to the project will be determined during MSBA’s Funding the Project Phase.
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.
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