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Winchester

State advances high school plan

The Massachusetts School Building Authority has moved the Winchester High School plan into the final design phase, along with projects in Winthrop and Lynn, and has approved a grant of up to $43.67 million for a new J. Henry Higgins Middle School in Peabody.

The authority’s decision last Wednesday to move the proposed $127.2 million Winchester High School into the schematic design phase sets the stage for a vote in October on whether to offer state reimbursement for the project.

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“Up to this point, the designs for the high school have been conceptual,” said Robert F. Deering, chairman of the town’s Educational Facilities Planning & Building Committee. “Now, with this latest MSBA approval, we will be able to get into specifics about what the school will look like, with more detailed drawings and elevations.”

The proposal calls for moderate additions and renovations to the high school on Skillings Road to address mechanical, plumbing, and electrical deficiencies. The school was built in 1971 and serves 1,167 students in grades 9 to 12. The design work will begin immediately, Deering said.

The schematic design “will give us a better idea of the final budget for the potential project,” Jack McCarthy, the authority’s executive director, said in a written statement.

‘It’s a big step for us. The current building is too old and too small. Each year, we have to allow students to transfer out of Marshall because we simply don’t have space for them there.’

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The Winchester school building committee is working with Symmes, Maini & McKee Associates, Inc., a Cambridge-based architectural, engineering, and planning firm, and Skanska USA, one of the world’s leading construction groups.

Superintendent William H. McAlduff Jr. said he hopes to have the schematic design completed this summer, in time for the authority to take action at its October meeting.

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If the building authority accepts the design and agrees to fund the project, the town would have 120 days to authorize the full project amount. According to McAlduff, voters would have to approve a debt exclusion, or temporary tax increase, to cover the costs.

McAlduff said he expects the state to cover about one-third of the project’s eligible costs. That figure could be higher if the project meets authority criteria related to sustainability, environmental efficiency, and other factors, the superintendent said.

If all goes according to plan, the project would be put out to bid in 2014, Deering said.

The work would be completed in multiple phases, with the first section of the building ready for use in the fall of 2016, McAlduff added.

Winchester High was one of three area schools to receive approval to move into the schematic design phase of a major construction project. Winthrop High School and Lynn’s Thurgood Marshall Middle School received the go-ahead for replacement projects.

Lynn is proposing its first major school building project in more than a decade.

School leaders are looking to replace the 90-year-old east Lynn school, one of the city’s three middle schools, with a new facility.

The planned project would replace the existing 144,100-square-foot Marshall School on Porter Street with a new 181,847-square-foot facility serving 1,100 students in grades 6 to 8.

“It’s a big step for us,” said Lynn Superintendent Catherine C. Latham. “The current building is too old and too small. Each year, we have to allow students to transfer out of Marshall because we simply don’t have space for them there.”

Lynn’s last significant school construction project was Lynn Classical High School, which opened in 1999. If the proposed $83.4 million Marshall Middle School project is approved by the authority, the state would reimburse the city for 80 percent of the project’s eligible costs, Latham said.

The city would have 120 days to authorize the full project amount, which would require a City Council appropriation and a ballot vote. Officials do not plan to seek a tax increase for the project.

In Winthrop, the schematic design phase will look at options to replace the middle and high schools with a new facility on the site of the current high school building. The proposed $82.9 million project would combine the two schools in a 184,000-square-foot Main Street facility serving 970 students in grades 6 to 12.

Built in 1965, Winthrop High School serves 534 students and has deficient major building systems, including the windows, roof, doors, and stairs.

The middle school, built in 1974, was found last year to have numerous air quality problems, including high carbon dioxide levels.

Inspectors with the state Department of Public Health in January made 30 recommendations to improve the air quality in the school, which serves about 475 students in grades 6 to 8.

In separate action, the building authority agreed to pay 56.16 percent of eligible costs, for a total grant of up to $43.67 million, toward the construction of a 221,518-square-foot J. Henry Higgins Middle School in Peabody.

The new school will replace a building that dates to 1966 and suffers from numerous deficiencies in structural integrity and in major building systems, from the roof to aging mechanical and electrical systems.

“This is a down payment on the academic excellence of Peabody students,” state Treasurer Steven Grossman, chairman of the authority, said in a written statement.

“Upon completion, this new school will provide a modern learning environment and create the space needed to deliver on the school district’s educational commitments and goals.”

The authority also approved the final audit for major renovations at Malden High School, ensuring a total reimbursement of nearly $68.24 million for a multiphase project that brought to a close one of the largest school rebuilding efforts in the state.

The new high school, the last of Malden’s schools to be remade under an ambitious reconstruction plan that took more than a decade to complete, was rededicated Dec. 9, 2011.

Brenda J. Buote may be reached at brenda.buote
@gmail.com.

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