Town Seeks Input on Upgrading WHS
The Educational Facilities Planning and Building Committee will focus on Skillings Field, including both the fields and current high school location, as the location for a new or renovated high school.
As the school year quickly approaches, Winchester residents are being asked to offer input on updating Winchester High School.
Winchester has been working with the Massachusetts School Building Authority on a feasibility study of the high school. This has included discussion of renovating the existing school or building a new school in another location.
After reviewing 12 alternate sites, the Educational Facilities Planning and Building Committee voted in July to focus exclusively on Skillings Field, including both the fields and current high school location, as the location for a new or renovated high school. Bob Deering, chairman of the EFPBC, described the Skillings site at a June Selectmen meeting as a 16-acre area, with approximately two-thirds of the site in the floodway and nearly the entire site within the floodplain.
Winchester held five days of meetings in June to address topographical and geotechnical site analysis, existing facility analysis and a traffic study, which will be assessed next month when traffic will be at normal in-school levels.
Cindy Bohne, member of the EFPBC and School Committee, said in a news release this study could result in a school facility that could serve a wide spectrum of community needs.
Although a typical high school facility offers a variety of services including adult education, sporting events, parent enrichment, nonprofit meetings and lectures when school is out, Bohne said there is more.
“What about a community career-enterprise/college/volunteer center, performing arts/exercise studio, wellness and nutrition kitchen facility, social gathering destination, leading-edge technology lab, parking garage, accessible municipal broadcasting and meeting space, and a pool?” she asks.
Deering said the goals of the project are to create an asset that is representative of the community. The committee has been gathering feedback from residents and will continue to do so in the upcoming months.
Do you think Winchester should upgrade the existing high school building or build a new one? Tell us in the comments below.
Winchester Patch asked what was the most important aspect of a possible new school and you said location and technology in the classroom.
"The new facility should be the best in class facility to promote and enhance educational excellence in all program areas, with a particular emphasis on facilities for science, technology and the arts," Deering said.
These ideas are being discussed by Winchester stakeholders and the EFPBC’s newly appointed Community Use Subcommittee, led by Bohne and Charles Tseckares.
“We are in the idea generation phase of the community use conversation,” Bohne said, “but very quickly, October at the latest, we will need to have a better idea of which ideas are financially feasible and how additional community use space might fit on an already constrained footprint.”
Deering said part of the goal is to deliver this on time and within the budget.
The preliminary design will be submitted to the Massachusetts School Building Authority on Wednesday, Oct. 10. The MSBA is reimbursing the town at least 33 percent of the cost of the high school updating, and any other changes not in their guidelines will have to come from private or public funding from the community.
This same board approved the Vinson-Owen School and will have the final say in this design as well if Winchester wants them to fund a portion of the project, according to the Daily News Chronicle.
The MSBA meets in January, and Winchester will have 120 days to secure funding once the MSBA approves the final design.
The EFPBC meets the second and fourth Wednesday every month at Town Hall to discuss updates. Discussion will also take place at School Committee and Board of Selectmen meetings in the upcoming months.
“As town leaders move forward on high school design discussions, continued community engagement and input is vital,” Bohne said.
The next public hearing is Wednesday, Sept. 12 at 7 p.m. at the high school. The project’s community considerations, process and schedule will be discussed. Residents will be able to ask questions and offer input on the project.
Ideas can also be submitted online at www.winchesterhsproject.com.