The new high school is a big project and has sparked numerous community conversations. We are glad that it is of interest to so many. However, members of the Building Committee have seen some misconceptions arise on the AList, Facebook, and elsewhere and we would like to address them.
The biggest misperception is that the massing diagrams are the final design. Instead, these diagrams are conceptual, showing the location of the new school on the site. The schematic design of the facade (architectural look and feel, materials used, etc.), site (green space, outdoor learning areas, etc.) and interior (layout, materials, etc.) will be created over the next six months.
We hope you can attend our community forums on November 27 and Jan/Feb (date TBD) to give your input about the future design and ask questions about the project.
Exterior and site
Claim: The front green will be reduced by three-quarters.
Answer: The site plan is still evolving. Currently the green space along the front of the new school is estimated to be about two-thirds the size of the current front green (i.e. reduced by one-third, not by three-quarters). The Building Committee is actively seeking ways to increase the amount of green space along Mass. Ave.
Claim: Memorials will be discarded.
Answer: The Building Committee is aware of the memorials in and around the high school. An inventory of all memorials will be created and the Committee will work with the Town to create optimal, respectful treatments for them.
Claim: Menotomy Preschool is for children of teachers.
Answer: The Menotomy Preschool is a crucial part of Arlington Public Schools. It provides state and federally mandated inclusion-based education for Arlington’s preschool students who require special education services. Without a preschool, we would have to send these students out of district. As required by the state, their education is free. However, an inclusion-based school must have a balance of special education and general education students. Children who do not receive special education services pay tuition.
Survey & Community Input
Claim: Attendees at the June forum were united in a desire to retain the original buildings.
Claim: The June survey said the majority of respondents favored retaining original buildings.
Answer: While a portion of attendees at the June forum publicly voiced desire to retain the original buildings, the feedback from the paper and online survey indicated otherwise. The survey did not ask respondents to rank the design concepts. Rather, respondents rated features of each option individually and their like or dislike of each concept on its own merits. In both surveys, respondents gave Option 3 (the chosen preferred option) more positive ratings than either Option 1 or 2 (concepts which retained the original buildings).
Some have suggested that the majority of respondents favored retaining original buildings. They came to this conclusion by combining the number of ‘likes’ that each option received. Since each option was rated individually, to combine them is an error and a misrepresentation of the survey results.
Claim: Why do we need a library if we have e-books?
Answer: A library is more than a repository for books. In the Educational Plan, the library learning commons is envisioned as the heart of the school; a place where students gather, study, do research and collaborate.
Cost and Financing
Claim: Debt exclusion debt is compounded annually (i.e. It will increase each year).
Answer: The amount of the debt will be set by the debt exclusion vote. There is no compounding effect of a debt exclusion; the additional tax paid is fixed for the length of the debt.
Claim: The project includes $70 million of offices which can be omitted to reduce cost.
Answer: The Building Committee continues to work to allow better cost comparisons with other projects. In a recent cost factors matrix, the cost of the core high school is separated from other cost factors. The current cost estimate includes all existing programs and services in the facility today: Town/School offices (Payroll, Comptroller, Facilities, IT, district administration, Community Education), Menotomy Preschool and the LABBB special education collaborative program. The estimate also includes preliminary values for factors such as sustainability and complex site conditions. These non-core AHS aspects that are unique to AHS total $67M. Though many of the offices are being considered for potential relocation, they make up only a portion of the additional cost.
Claim: The project can be significantly changed without financial repercussions.
Answer: It is not possible to change the Preferred Design Concept at this stage without delaying the project and increasing costs. Significant changes (i.e. retaining original buildings) would require resubmission of our Preferred Design Concept to the Mass. School Building Authority (MSBA), and we risk being asked to start the process over again. Construction escalation costs for the entire project are estimated at $800,000 per month for every month the project is delayed.
At our September forum, Building Committee Chair Jeff Thielman said it best: “It is very clear that Arlington is united in a collective desire to create a better educational space for our high school students as soon as we possibly can.” But to do this, we have to work with facts.
This project website is updated each week. We share project material, address questions and try to anticipate information that will be of interest. If you see other claims out there that make you wonder, we hope you will contact us, or attend our upcoming forums. Together, we can build a high school for Arlington’s future.
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