With just the townwide vote left to secure the funding, Arlington may soon be on its way to building a new $291 million high school that is proposed to include a 900-seat auditorium and an “upgraded Black Box theater,” plus outdoor learning spaces, a larger gym, and courtyards.
Town Meeting voted roughly 95% in favor of the new school on Monday night, according to the building committee website. Now, residents will head to the polls on June 11 to vote on whether or not to spend $205 million on the project — the remaining $86 million is planned to come from the Massachusetts School Building Authority. If all goes according to plan, construction is set to begin in the spring of next year and finish in phases between 2022 and 2024. The old school would be demolished to make way for the new one on the same site.
The new school would have enough room for 1,755 students, according to the project website. It is planned to include a “central spine” with four different wings that split off from it.
“The architects refer to the central core of the building as the spine, the point from which the academic, athletic, and performing arts wing emanate,” a blog post on the website says. “But this description understates its significance. The spine is configured and equipped as a Commons, a space of community, collaboration, learning, and wellness.”
Along with larger classrooms across various disciplines, there would be “collaboration and breakout spaces,” plus a library/media center in the middle of the building. The new gym would not only be larger, but would also have a walking track.
The current Arlington High School serves a student population of 1,400, according to the project website. The original school, or Fusco House, was built in 1914, and the building has had ongoing additions and a couple of renovations since.
“Major additions were last done in 1960 and 1981, and many years of budget cuts and deferred maintenance have taken their toll,” the website says. “There has never been a top-down whole school renovation. At this point, many crucial systems and building components are at or beyond their expected service life.”
The district was also warned back in 2013 by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges about the school building’s negative effects on its accreditation. The letter indicated that the school’s classrooms were too small and there weren’t enough of them. Other problems included classroom layout, “the poor condition and lack of cleanliness of the building,” and “falling ceiling tiles.” Plus, a classroom was closed “due to environmental concerns.”
Check out proposed renderings of the outside and inside of the new school: