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Natick Takes First Step In Repairing Or Replacing Kennedy School

Posted by Your Town  April 2, 2013 06:50 AM

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Less than a year after a new, $90 million Natick High School opened its doors, some school and town officials say its time that Kennedy Middle School undergo renovation or be replaced altogether.

Selectmen on Monday voted unanimously on a request by the school committee to send a statement of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority, on the grounds that Kennedy is severely overcrowded and is not energy efficient. The statement is the first step in either constructing a new building or undertaking a major renovation.

The MSBA partners with communities to support funding, design and construction of public schools and. According to the MSBA, the statement of interest allows the authority to review deficiencies in school buildings.

If the MSBA chooses to take on the Kennedy School project, the school district would, in the fall, ask Town Meeting voters for funds for a feasibility study, which may cost between $750,000 and $1 million, according to William Hurley, director of fiscal and management services for the district.

A similar study of the high school cost around $500,000.

A letter must be sent to the building authority by April 10 to meet this year's MSBA deadline.
Selectman Carol Gloff emphasized that there is no obligation for the town to undertake a feasibility study if the MSBA accepts the statement of interest.

“It says we're interested in going forward with the process,” Hurley said, who noted that the school department will not be asking April 23 Town Meeting voters to fund any study. “Hopefully our case will be a strong case, but that does not obligate us at all.”

Should the MSBA accept the town's statement, the authority would, with the help of the town, hire a firm to study the best possible solution to the problems of the aging facility.

Kennedy Middle School on 165 Mill St. was built in the 1960s, and has an architectural style of that era. “In today's environment, it doesn't suit the way a middle school works,” Hurley said. “The best possible solution is to build a new school.”

According to Hurley, it is often more economical to construct a new building then renovate the school while it's occupied, a process he described as “often very long and disruptive.” He added that there is adjacent land available on which to build a new school.

The 100,000 square-foot school houses about 650 students in grades 5 to 8. In addition to the main building, the school district is leasing eight modular classrooms to house to overflow of students. The cafeteria and auditorium are also being utilized as classrooms.

“The school is beyond its capacity for enrollment” Hurley said, who noted that the design of a facility built in the '60s was insufficient, especially in areas of special education, for the students of today.

Should the MSBA reject the statement of interest, Hurley said there was contingency to alleviate some of the issues plaguing Kennedy, including dipping into the capitol budget fund.

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