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Planned school construction projects in Winchester, Peabody, Lynn and Winthrop advance

Posted by Your Town  April 4, 2013 09:11 AM

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The Massachusetts School Building Authority has moved the Winchester High School plan into the final design phase, along with a project in Lynn, and approved a grant of up to $43.67 million for a new J. Henry Higgins Middle School in Peabody.

The authority’s decision Wednesday to move the proposed $127.2 million Winchester High School into the schematic design phase sets the stage for an MSBA vote in October on whether to offer state reimbursement for the project.

“Up to this point, the designs for the high school have been conceptual,” said Robert F. Deering, chairman of the town’s Educational Facilities Planning & Building Committee. “Now, with this latest MSBA approval, we will be able to get into specifics about what the school will look like, with more detailed drawings and elevations.”

The proposal calls for moderate additions and renovations to the existing high school on Skillings Road to address mechanical, plumbing, and electrical deficiencies. The current school was built in 1971 and serves 1,167 students in grades 9 to 12. Design work on the new facility will begin immediately, Deering said.

The schematic design “will give us a better idea of the final budget for the potential project,” Jack McCarthy, the authority’s executive director, said in a written statement.

The Winchester school building committee is working with Symmes, Maini & McKee Associates, Inc., a Cambridge-based architectural, engineering, and planning firm, and Skanska USA, one of the world’s leading construction groups to improve the high school.

Superintendent William H. McAlduff Jr. said he hopes to have the schematic design completed this summer, in time for the authority to take action at its October meeting.

If the building authority accepts the design and agrees to fund the project, the town would have 120 days to authorize the full project amount. According to McAlduff, local voters would have to approve a debt exclusion, or temporary tax increase, to cover the costs.

McAlduff said he expects the state to cover about one-third of the project’s eligible costs. However, that figure could be higher if the project meets MSBA criteria related to sustainability, environmental efficiency, and other factors, the superintendent said.

If all goes according to plan, the project would be put out to bid in 2014, Deering said. The work would be completed in multiple phases, with the first section of the building ready for use in the fall of 2016, McAlduff added.

Winchester High was one of three area schools to receive approval to move into the schematic design phase of a major construction project. Winthrop High School and Lynn’s Thurgood Marshall Middle School received the go-ahead for replacement projects.

Lynn is proposing its first major school building project in more than a decade. Local leaders are looking to replace the 90-year-old east Lynn school, one of the city’s three middle schools, with a new facility. The proposed project would replace the existing 144,100-square-foot Marshall School on Porter Street with a new 181,847-square-foot facility serving 1,100 students in grades 6 to 8.

“It’s a big step for us,” said Lynn Superintendent Catherine C. Latham. “The current building is too old and too small. Each year, we have to allow students to transfer out of Marshall because we simply don’t have space for them there.”

In separate action, the building authority agreed to pay 56.16 percent of eligible costs, for a total grant of up to $43.67 million, toward the construction of a new, 221,518-square-foot J. Henry Higgins Middle School in Peabody.

The new school will replace a building that dates to 1966 and suffers from numerous deficiencies in structural integrity and in major building systems, from the roof to aging mechanical and electrical systems.

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