By Barbara Taormina
At their last meeting, the High School Building Committee had another go around with the design options for the building on the existing site. Planners and design staff presented drawings showing both the exterior and interior of six different options. The committee agreed to eliminate two of the design options that would have separate buildings on the far side of the culvert that runs through the site. Building a separate freshman academy or a performing arts center would drive the cost of the project up significantly.
The other issue the committee focused on was the height of the academic wing. The design team has encouraged the committee to consider building up to allow more space between the school and neighboring residents.
However, Superintendent Diane Kelly explained it’s a complicated decision. Kelly said there would need to be administrative teams on each of the six floors. She expressed concern about students with disabilities having to make the climb and of lawsuits if the school kept them limited to lower floors. Kelly said there were also safety concerns in the case that the building needed to be evacuated. And finally, six floors would require a longer school day, which would mean negotiations with the teachers’ union.
The design team members said they could focus more on a five-story academic wing to alleviate some of those concerns.
The design team expects to present the final options and have the committee and the City Council make a final decision by the end of November or the beginning of December.
They predict shovels will be in the ground by the end of 2025. The team stressed they are working toward a building that would cost the city $300 million, with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) picking up the rest of the cost, which was estimated to be around $170 million.