AHS rebuild committee sends schematic design to state agency

AHS project

Votes to work on alternatives should June vote fail

The schematic design for a rebuilt Arlington High School was unanimously approved for state review on Tuesday, Feb. 19.

After reviewing design variations since last June, when an overall direction was approved, the high school building committee voted, 13-0, with five absent, authorizing Skanska, the project manager, to submit the schematic to the state School Building Authority on behalf of the district.

In a second significant vote, the committee directed two subcommittees to create and cost out alternatives, addressing what would happen if the debt exclusion vote were to fail.

Two scenarios

The motion by member Kirsi Allison-Ampe aims for two scenarios, one starting with base repairs and one starting with renovations only, and including additional projections as required to cover the needs of all special programs, enrollment increases, changes necessary to address accreditation issues, etc.

The report would include both cost projections and a narrative description of the resulting school, including mention of how well the school would meet the educational plan. It would need to include spaces for all special programs -- or include construction costs if moved off-site -- construction escalation to the correct time period and modular costs if enrollment growth dictates a need.

The motion, adopted, 13-0, says: "The aim is for the Building Committee to have clear information on the work and costs necessary to address the high school needs under a scenario were we do not build the new high school nor have participation with the MSBA."

Discussion about this option made clear that the committee was choosing to prepare for the worst case.

Updates from architect

Before these votes, Lori Cowles, principal at HMFH, the Cambridge architect for the project, provided an updated “AHS Schematic Design Site Plan.” She also shared “AHS Existing Site Plan Open Space Diagram,” a “Arlington High School Open Space Comparison” log and “AHS Schematic Design Central Spine” renderings.

For marketing purposes, HMFH also presented an updated rendering of the building design and updated floor plans.

HMFH presented “AHS Expansion Layouts,” proposal diagrams for the schematic-design submission. Cowles reported that an additional 206 students could be accommodated by this proposal.

Member Steve Nesterak asks whether the cafeteria could be altered to accommodate 206 more students. Principal Matthew Janger and Cowles offered ideas about how to expand the cafeteria if needed.

As Cowles spoke, resident Carl Wagner took photos of images on the screen. Wagner has been vocal since July about a variety of matters, including open space and preserving the 1938 front columns. He is part of a group called Save Our Historic Arlington High School. More recently, Wagner has said on social media that he would pursue a no vote in Town Meeting, which must approve the project's progress to date.

April decision expected

The state School Building Authority is expected to decide April 10 whether the AHS project moves to the next stage of the process.

In other business Feb. 19, member Frank Callahan spelled out an issue he raised at the end of the Feb. 5 meeting -- short notice about new issues and better communication from top leaders.

On a motion by Callahan, seconded by Kate Loosian the committee voted unanimously to require that all substantive materials for discussion be submitted at least 24 hours before the meeting, with the goal of 48 hours before a meeting. In addition, the motion asks that any substantive discussions among town officials and the design team be summarized and shared with the whole committee.  

In a bit of irony, Sandy Pooler, deputy town manager, said for the record that he would have preferred to have this motion in written form in front of the committee for review.

Public participation

Earlier, during public participation, resident Mike De Lisi echoed Callahan's concern. He said he was disappointed with the process at the Feb. 5 meeting in considering adding lights to the high school sports fields. He said he felt that the community did not have a say in this matter and requested that the committee consider this when reviewing the meeting process. 

Regarding future process, Jim Burrows, representing Skanska, asked what protocol will be put in place for critical money decisions regarding construction. Member John Cole said there will be a future motion to adopt a threshold for such decisions.

With a major step in the committee's two and a half years of work behind them, the panel looked ahead to further community engagement.

Chairman Jeff Thielman reviewed the schedule of upcoming meetings with town committees. They include Open Space (Feb. 25), Capital Planning (Feb. 28), Finance (March 4), ACAC (March 7), as well as these at dates to be determined: PTBC, Select Board, Transportation Advisory Committee, Historical commission, Council on Aging, Tree Committee and sports groups.

Under new business, the committee plans change its schedule from the first and third Tuesdays of the month to the first Tuesday of month, starting March 5.


Feb. 6, 2019: Official vote backs cost of rebuilt AHS at $291.4M 

Feb. 1, 2019: Unofficial votes put estimated cost to rebuild AHS at $291.7M
Jan. 30, 2019: AHS Building Committee supports new total cost: $299M
Jan. 26, 2019: AHS rebuild committee supports refined design
Jan. 22, 2018, HMFH full presentation >>
Jan. 19, 2019: Board weighs where to site prekindergarten, district offices in AHS rebuild
Jan. 15, 2019: Second AHS rebuild forum draws estimated 200 -- 25 with questions 
First forum, Nov. 28, 2018: Fears about cost may divide town, but numbers face more scrutiny
Dec. 5, 2018: AHS rebuild committee directs architect to work with tradition
Nov. 24, 2018: AHS rebuild committee reviews 3 new exterior designs, gives go-ahead to memorial effort
Nov. 10, 2018: AHS design discussion turns to interior ideas, and reaction is positive
Sept. 5, 2018: AHS rebuild design raises questions, but process has just begun
Aug. 29: AHS rebuild approved to move on to schematic design stage
June 26, 2018: DESIGN CHOSEN: High school to be rebuilt, not renovated
June 6, 2018: AHS rebuild process moves toward one design by end of June
 Official information about the high school building project  
June 7, ", 2018: THIRD FORUM: 100 tour AHS, look into future; hear flexibility touted
Jan. 12, 2018: 125 attend as public process to launch AHS update underway
Dec. 20, 2017: Could new AHS be built elsewhere in town? 4 sites suggested
Dec. 12,"2017: Designer chosen for revamped Arlington High project
Oct. 4, 2017: 3 finalists chosen to design revamped Arlington High

This news announcement was published Monday, Feb. 18, 2019, and updated to a summary, Feb. 20.

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