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Wellesley votes to build new $175 million high school

Posted by Erica Noonan, Globe West May 16, 2008 11:23 AM

Wellesley town officials voted unanimously last night to support plans to build a new $159 million high school.

Members of a combined panel of both the School Building Committee and the Permanent Building Committee voted 15 to 0 with one absent to back new construction over competing renovation plans.

Correction: Due to a reporting error, this item gave the incorrect tally for the vote on the new Wellesley High School. The vote was 16-0.

The panel includes one selectman (Katherine Babson), the town's executive director (Hans Larsen), a School Committee representative (Suzanne Littlefield), two architects, two builders, three financial experts, two educators, and two abutters, an HVAC expert, and a project manager.

Members of the building committee said the vote reflected a desire to minimize disruption for students during construction of an all-new complex, expected to take less than four years. Another proposal had called for renovation of the original 1938 section of the current building with new additions, but its cost was estimated at $175 million with more than five years required for construction.

Katherine Babson, chairwoman of the School Building Committee, said that while she had a sentimental attachment to the existing building, the smaller price tag and shorter length of time to completion compelled her to support the new building.

The project must now go through review by the state School Building Authority, which controls how much money the state contributes to the effort.

Townspeople said they hoped Wellesley would avoid some of the difficulties neighboring Newton has encountered during the past two years with its controversial $197 million Newton North high school project, which has seen tens of millions in cost overruns.

Marlene Allen, a school committee member, said she hopes the town will "make sure that we so sufficiently study this thing that we're ready to go without these huge cost overruns, and that we do the best job for the town."

-- Lisa Keen

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