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Winchester Considers Upgrading High School

There is a public meeting tonight in the Winchester High School auditorium where the committee will present the project overview including new site possibilities.

The  wants your input on what a new or refurbished could mean to the town.

The EFPBC will outline the project details tonight at 7 in the auditorium in a public meeting regarding the high school feasibility study.

Over the course of four and a half days, there have been 26 program meetings. These meetings have included topographical and geotechnical site analysis, existing facility analysis and a traffic study, which needs to be assessed in September when traffic will be at normal in-school levels.

The goals of this project are to create a 21st century teaching and learning environment with the flexibility for future teaching methods and support for special education and student work. This includes a facility that can be properly used for after-hours activities and parking for special events. The committee also plans to optimize the site circulation of pick-up and drop-off traffic, incorporate playing fields, roadways and natural elements in a newly integrated campus.

Bob Deering, chairman of the EFPBC, said the goals of the project are to create an asset that is representative of the community. The committee will do this by gathering feedback over the course of the next few months.

"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. "Part of that goal is to deliver this on time and within the budget.”

The options for moving forward on these projects include the current high school being renovated and upgraded or a new high school being built in the current location or elsewhere.

Alternative sites ideas include:

  • Mystic River Reservation
  • Westside Fields
  • Sunset Road Site – Kraft General Foods
  •  
  • Skillings Field

Deering provided an overview of each of the sites:

  • The Mystic River Reservation is a 15-acre site, which is currently DCR state park land with floodplain issues and a grand total of five usable acres.
  • The Winchester Department Land is a 28.9-acre site, which is Park Department land on the southern border of Medford. Deering said this plan would need to be further pursued.
  • Leonard Field is a 12.7-acre site with only five or six usable acres of Park Department land. This plan will not be further pursued.
  • Mullen Field is a 9.52-acre site located on the western town border near Wright-Locke Farm. This land is also Park Department land and topography limits the useful area to seven or eight acres.
  • The Westside Fields is a 7.5-acre site, which is located in the center of town. This is also Park Department land.
  • The Sunset Road – Kraft General Foods site is a 16.4-acre site located on the Northern Border of town near Woburn. This site is almost entirely within the floodplain.
  • Manchester Field – McCall Junior High School is a 12.5-acre site near the Town Center. About eight or nine acres in this site are within the floodplain. Another drawback to this site is that McCall Middle School is already using this land. This site will not likely be further pursued.
  • The Parkhurst School and Mount Pisgah site is about 15-acres. An issue with this site is that eight of the acres belong to the Water Department and 3.4 acres belong to the Park Department. The school site is too small, and the site is difficult to access. It is doubtful that the EFBC will pursue this plan.
  • The Lynch School site is an 18-acre site located on the Northern town border of Woburn, which is disjointed and 10 acres are contiguous Water Department land. The play fields are within the floodplain and the floodway. Deering said this site would be pursued further.
  • Wright-Locke Farm is an open site with 20 acres located on the Western border of town. The topography is challenging and there are some wetlands, which also present challenges. This site will be further pursued.
  • Skillings Field is a 16-acre site, with approximately two-thirds of the site in the floodway and nearly the entire site within the floodplain. This site will be further pursed.

After tonight’s meeting, the EFPBC will hold meetings Wednesday, June 13 and Wednesday, Sept. 12 with hopes of submitting the preliminary design to the Massachusetts School Building Authority on Wednesday, Oct. 10. From there, the MSBA will decide how much money to dedicate to the project.

The MSBA meets in January.

The town will have 120 days to secure funding once the MSBA approves the final design.

“This is a major investment,” Board of Selectmen Chairman Jim Johnson said. “This is the most expensive project the town will see in 20 years.”

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Perplexed June 05, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Hmmmmmm. Why is this information only being released 4 hours prior to this meeting? Seems like more notification of meeting content would have been appropriate.
Lindsey Davidson (Editor) June 05, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Perplexed, this information was announced at last night's Board of Selectmen meeting. This is just the first public meeting the committee will hold discussing the feasibility study project. It's going to be a long process where the committee is going to seek feedback from everyone in the community on their thoughts on the project. The committee meets twice a month, and there will be more public meetings scattered in the upcoming months as well.
Perplexed June 05, 2012 at 09:34 PM
I'm just puzzled why all the emails and publicity that went out about this meeting never mentioned that specific sites would be identified at this meeting. Even an announcement the night before does not give potential impacted neighborhoods enough notification.
BAV June 05, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Do we need a new high school? The current one is 38 years old. Most houses in Winchester are FAR older. It may well need some renovations, and perhaps even an addition if the space is inadequate for the enrollment. I would like an assessment of the needs prior to talking about where we will build the new one. We don't want to find ourselves in some similar situation to the new VO (which I supported), where we enlarge a school in the least densely populated portion of town only to realize that many problems would come after the commitment to build. Obviously the concerns are different for the High School, but lets think it through.
Perplexed June 05, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Really? It is only 38 years old? What is a reasonable life expectation for a public building?
Winchester Coalition for a Safer Community June 06, 2012 at 03:11 AM
You can read about the condition and capacity of the high school facility in the 2007 Master Plan: http://mail.winchester.k12.ma.us/~wps/SFMP/WinchesterMasterPlan.pdf
Rachel June 06, 2012 at 10:08 AM
Yes, Winchester needs a new high school as anyone who has ever walked through it knows. Surrounding towns have torn down buildings in better shape than WHS and Lynch. Lynch is actually my concern since it is listed as a possible site for the new high school. I'm not sure what the point is in redistricting more kids to Lynch only to tear the building down (though it clearly needs to be replaced soon). The HS is currently in a central location in the town, if on the regularly flooded Lynch fields, then it would be at the very edge of town and the current traffic fiasco that is Lynch on the Middlesex/Royal side would become even more of an issue. I don't have alternative suggestions, but it seems like moving a building currently on a floodplain to another floodplain location is not thinking through the geological and traffic considerations.
quasimodo June 07, 2012 at 12:14 AM
My high school, a lycee to be exact, was built in 1884 (yes, you read correctly, 1884), and is still in service and in great demand as shown in the yearly competition to be able to attend it. Out of it came two President, 5 Prime Ministers, renowned industrialists, lawyers, scientists, artists (and myself : well, there are always exemptions ;~)) Young men and, later on, women from all around the world came to study there. Of course, it is not located in the United States, where glitz is what counts the most instead of real learning.
Susan Verdicchio June 07, 2012 at 02:49 PM
The MSBA (MA School Building Authority) requires any town applying for state funding for a school building project (renovation or new) to carry out a needs assessment and thoroughly evaluate the costs of all options to solve building deficiencies -- including the option of building an entirely new school on a different site. (If the current building is renovated, there would be costs associated with re-locating the students in "swing space" or phasing the work to minimize disruption during the school year, which would bring up the total cost to the town.) I believe the list of properties here is the list of possible alternative sites, and many of them are being looked at by the professionals and EFPBC and quickly judged unsuitable according to MSBA criteria. (Much of the open land in Winchester is subject to flooding.) The MSBA requirements for this Feasibility Study, which needs to be done before any decisions are made about what to build, are detailed. The meeting was on WinCAM and you can watch it online anytime under the tab Municipal Meetings http://www.wincam.org/ If we do this right, the high school building could be something the whole town would be proud of.
Daniel Parsignault June 07, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Robert Deering NEVER saw a school building he did not want to destroy!
Jeff Dearman June 16, 2012 at 08:08 PM
The Wright-Locke Farm Location would be best. You could SAVE the Farm, there'd be less disruption that a multi home condo complex would create to the neighborhood. There wouldn't be as much activity there on weekends and part of the year when school was out. You already have the available open space and you could save the old historic farm buildings for use along with the school. Perhaps the old farm buildings could be used for a new WINCAM studio in the main building and other buildings could house the art department, music department, wood shop, car shop, technology departments, etc etc. connected with the school. You could also develop a new Gyumnasium/fieldhouse and hockey rink on Lockeland Field and use the field for parking and recreation purposes. Perhaps a new swimming pool too indoors andperhaps outdoors could be built here too and some outdoor tennis/basketball courts for the students. You coudl preserve the trails that connect to Whipple Hill, and the intersection of Ridge/Lockeland would be safer as new traffic lights would be installed and the town would reconfigure the intersection. In my opinion Wright-Locke is the best location.
Jeff Dearman June 16, 2012 at 08:09 PM
The WHS building was POORLY Designed, and constructed, and also is on land that is SINKING. they need a newsite.
Suburbanmama June 17, 2012 at 02:11 AM
Wright-Lock is probably the best site, but what about the traffic? There are currently almost 1,100 kids at the high school and probably a few extra hundred in the years to come. At the moment a large percentage of those kids walk because the school is in the part of town where most people live. Not that many kids are within walking distance to Wright-Locke. Can the west side of Winchester handle over one thousand extra trips? The town center will also lose a lot of business.
Jeff Dearman June 17, 2012 at 02:16 AM
Because its Winchester. :P Lol. they dont even tell you when they are ripping up the road surfaces. I found out they were repaving Main street the other day (No notice or anything)
Jeff Dearman June 17, 2012 at 02:20 AM
Thats why I suggest they develop WINWHEELS and have a separate town buss system with special early morning runs from different parts of town to the high school along with the regular yellow school busses as well. We should get the win wheels bus system going through town like LEXX Express so it will be in place when a new school is built. Would you rather have a massive apartment condo complex, rip up most of the trails in Hamilton Farm, and there'd be tons of traffic there as well and there'd be traffic all weekend long as well. and all year. At least with the school there'd be 4 months of the year with hardly any traffic to the site, and only a couple hours a day there'd be traffic (morning for 2 hours and afternoon for two hours)(when most people are at work anyway) The lots at the high school clear out by 3pm-4pm so it'd be clear by the time most people come back from work (Except maybe for some traffic going to the Athletic complex at the Lockeland Field. ) I just think the opportunity to save the historic farm buildinsg and use them as part of the school and to save the trails outweighs having a large apartment complex come in with noise, traffic year round and all week long - The kids will still go downtown to the center of town after school they're always hanging out downtown it wont matter.
Jeff Dearman June 17, 2012 at 02:23 AM
So the alternative would be to have hundreds of families move in and have cars coming in going all hours of the day and all weekend and all year. whereas with the school you'd have 4 months with very little traffic. and weekends little traffic. - and only a couple hours a day when it'd be busy. The high school isn't that bad most of the day except for the two hours in the morning and the two hours in the afternoon when classes let out. (And if you think about it, there are more students and single family homes in the area where the new high school at Hamilton Farm would serve, than the other side of town. ) (Currently the people in the West Side of town have to drive in or take the bus) so it would just be switched) But overall more students would be served by the Wright locke Farm Site. as its in the area with most single family homes . - The mian thing is we need to save the farm and putting the school on the site, would be better for the neighborhood in my opinion and would prevent a large apartment complex or future development from coming in and ruining the farm
Jeff Dearman June 17, 2012 at 02:24 AM
I'd rather have little to no traffic through there on the weekends, and 4 months duringt the year when ther'es no school than have traffic constantly coming and going from an apartment complex. think about it.
BAV June 17, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Jeff - You are answering a slightly different question. You are discussing what would be best for the Wright-Lock farm. The question we should be asking is: Where is the best location for the High School? The current location or the adjacent field is clearly superior to all others. There are many synergies involved with having the school downtown. It minimizes traffic as many can walk there. It allows business in the town center from students before and after school and allows students to walk to work for after-school jobs. It allows easy non-driving access to the public library from WHS. It allows the students to walk to the football field and the track (unless we plan to build a second one...) It allows for community use of the school. And most importantly, if we choose to renovate as opposed to replace, it saves big money for the people of Winchester. The school is not that old, and doesn't need to be replaced. At best, it needs some updating and reconfiguring.
Jeff Dearman June 17, 2012 at 08:50 PM
I feel Hamilton farm is a great location site for a new school. It would also save the farmland from an expensive and multi home condo complex. - You know Winchester has multi millionaires living in town, why dont they contribute some of their money toward helping the towns financial situations and renovation projects? If even 10% of the people who earn over $200,000 a year who live in town would donate a portion of their money to help the town like say the bike path or to renovate the town center it would make a big difference. But anyway RENOVATING the high School wont work. They will need to build a new high tech school. Renovating just offers a temporary fix that will one day need to be rebuilt. I say rebuild it now even if its in the same location, REBUILD it as a MODERN School. Have you been inside? Did you go to school at the building? I went to school there in 1991-1995 and it was UGLY inside.The school was old and worn down even then and the lockers were bright orange and floors green. doors brown, making it look more like Woburn High Than Winchester. The school has a lot of old outdated technology and isn't a GREEN Technology School. We need to BUILD A NEW SCHOOL. Whether its on the current site or not, it needs to be NEW. They need to do something about the SINKING land with a new school too.
BAV June 17, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Hi Jeff - I attended from 1990-1994. Sure we all complained about the physical plant, but we all also did well after graduation. There is little correlation between the building and success in school. If there are deficiencies that need repair (roof, boiler, etc.) these things need to be addressed and not deferred indefinitely. I do not care about the colors of the lockers, but if those are inadequate, they too could be replaced for a relatively small cost. If the building is sinking, we need a professional opinion of the impact, if any, to the life expectancy of the building. If the building is too small, we need to first see if reorganization would bring it up to size. And if not, whether an addition could accomplish the same goal. I confess to being a bit vague on the "outdated technology" in the building. Please tell me more. It is pretty clear that the most green solution to most building projects is renovation as opposed to demolition. The wasted energy in the lost building materials is huge. Even though I have kids who would likely attend a new high school, I would be hard pressed to support demolition unless that was the most cost effective solution to house the number of students we expect to have.
BAV June 17, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Typo above...attended from 1986-1990.
JT June 19, 2012 at 05:42 PM
NOT building on "sinking land" & NOT building in a floodplain--both WISE ideas, & since Lynch School is one site with flood plain issues, facility issues of its own, & its hands full with "redistricting" issues, it would seem better to look elsewhere IF a new site is even needed. It's too bad this meeting was held AFTER schools closed for the summer & many families had left town for vacation. Hopefully there will be sufficient public notice in the EARLY FALL to allow everyone interested in attending future sessions to be there. As far as a "new" HS school goes, shouldn't everyone consider the following, just for starters: 1. the STILL AWFUL economy where even some people in Winchester may STILL be out of work or underemployed, yet STILL paying taxes--not the first folks to want to vote for an override (no matter the reason) to raise their own taxes in Winchester (in "Taxachusetts"); & 2. how many 75- 100- & 100-year-plus old homes in town have been gutted, renovated, & upgraded to be as "state-of-the-art" as any "built-from-scratch" new home, but at a huge COST SAVINGS. Let's really think this project through with more than superfluous bells-&-whistles in mind, because as much as we all want the best education possible for our students, it isn't just the building that will provide that; it's the teachers, parent involvement, curriculum, & technology that fill the facility, AS WELL AS the ability of the property owners in town to pay for it that matter most.

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