Design for new Holbrook school unveiled

$103 million project has academic wings, community space

Renderings of the proposed $103 million school show a curved façade that links the elementary and middle-high sections with a central communal area.
Flansburgh Architects
Renderings of the proposed $103 million school show a curved façade that links the elementary and middle-high sections with a central communal area.

Conceptual drawings of Holbrook’s proposed $103 million pre-K-12 school, which would serve the entire district under one roof, have been released by the Permanent School Building Committee.

The design, by Flansburgh Architects of Boston, shows two academic wings, one for grades 5 and under, and one for grades 6 through 12. They are joined by a community space that holds the auditorium, media center, art and band rooms, reception area, district offices, a cafeteria with two serving areas, and two gymnasiums linked by a movable wall.

The design shows a concave, curved façade overlooking a green. The façade links the three sections: to the left, the elementary school, built to serve 605 students; to the right, the middle-high school, built to serve 490 students; and in the middle, the communal area.


Each section would be separated from the others by doors that could be locked, both for security purposes and to close the academic wings during community events in the gym or auditorium.

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Each academic wing would have its own main entrance, administrative offices, and buzz-in system, Superintendent Patricia Lally said. An outside entrance to the community area would be locked during the day.

As the design stands, the cost to the owner of an average house valued at $231,800 would be $704 annually over 25 years, town Treasurer/Collector Paul Digirolamo said in an interview. For the commercial taxpayer with an averge property valued at $385,900, the tax increase would be $2,260 annually over the same period.

But the cost could change, he said, because the plan is not final.

“It’s just a design. It’s not the bidding documents,” he said.


Release of the building design follows recent news that Vincent Hayward, principal of Holbrook Junior-Senior High School, has taken a position as principal of Norton Middle School for the upcoming school year, a move that comes late in the hiring season for Holbrook to find a new leader. Any applicant for the job will be rolling the dice on whether voters approve the new building in the fall.

“Of course it’s disappointing, because he’s been a big advocate,” School Committee chairwoman Barbara Davis said of Hayward’s departure.

Normally, principals announce a move in March or April, not at the end of May, she said in an interview. The district will have to act without delay to get a new principal in place for September.

Because Town Meeting and ballot-box votes on the new building are not expected until the fall, the new principal will enter a junior-senior high school whose declining facilities have threatened its accreditation. In recent years the building has been prone to rainwater leaks and falling ceiling tiles. In one well-remembered moment, a parent held up a broken ceiling tile at a 2011 Town Meeting and said the tiles routinely fell on desks in his 16-year-old son’s classroom.

Asked whether the state of the building might deter top-notch applicants, Davis said that, after years of discussion, the new school is very close to approval.


“It looks like a really cool building is on the road to reality,” she said.

Lally, who will hire the new principal, said at least 41 people, all from outside the district, had submitted applications as of June 12, the day before the deadline. A screening committee is forming to review the applications.

“It looks like we have a decent pool,” she said.

Asked whether she was considering hiring an interim principal, Lally said she does not intend to do so unless the applicant pool is insufficient. She said she wants to find someone who feels invested in the building project, is up to the challenge, and plans to be in Holbrook for the long haul. Plus, selling the project to voters is part of the job, she said.

Although many parents have clamored for a new building, and a nonbinding Town Meeting referendum supporting it passed almost unanimously a few years ago, some residents have expressed concern about the cost.

Joel Seeley, the project manager, said the latest cost estimate is $102,967,198. Of that, $47 million would be paid by the community, he said. The figure includes the building, site work, demolition, and other costs.

Previously, in a memorandum the Massachusetts School Building Authority approved in March, the total was estimated at $101 million.

Lally said the state’s pledged reimbursement rate for the project has been raised from an initial number near 60 percent of eligible expenses to 69.12 percent, due to points the Holbrook proposal earned for “green” elements and for the building maintenance plan, aimed at preventing the new school from ending up in the same condition as the 1950s building it will replace.

“I was thrilled. I couldn’t believe it,” she said of the boost in reimbursement. “I know we didn’t have that in the last district I was in, and they voted [their building project] in.”

Lally previously worked as assistant superintendent in Tewksbury.

In addition, she said, the state has increased the per-square-foot reimbursement rate to $287 from about $275.

Not all costs are eligible for reimbursement. For example, the design calls for the building to house the district offices, which are not reimbursable.

Jennette Barnes can be reached at