Saugus schools head to drawing board

February 16, 2017

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — The Massachusetts School Building Authority approved the town’s plan for a combination middle and high school building concept, allowing officials to move on to the design.

The quasi-independent government agency that funds public schools is working with Saugus to construct a new building.

“Now we will move on to modular four of the project with the MSBA, the schematic design phase,” said Town Manager Scott Crabtree. “Over the next year we will work with the architects to design the actual building.”

The project is expected to cost about $153 million. In June, Town Meeting will be presented with a Proposition 2½ debt exclusion vote that would increase the tax levy beyond the state limit of 2.4 percent for more than 20 years or until the project is paid off, Crabtree said. The question will then go to the polls. The amount that could be added to residents’ bills to fund the investment is still unknown, he said.

The new middle-high school would be constructed on the same property as the existing high school. A new football stadium with multi-use fields would replace the current building.

The building process began when the town sent a letter of interest to the MSBA at the end of 2013, which was accepted the next month. By last February, PMA Consultants was chosen as the owner’s project manager and HMFH Architects Inc. was chosen to design the new building.

Cambridge-based HMFH is known for its user-centered designs and use of color in their work. The company has experience working with the state on combination middle-high school and standalone high school projects.

HMFH project director Lori Cowles described a pod-style layout focused on keeping students within one area of the school, rather than a compartmental design that keeps clusters of classrooms teaching one subject together.

“I think it’s very exciting to move onto the next phase of the school building project,” Crabtree said. “This will be the school district and the town’s time to work with the residents and parents and students of the community on designing a plan that fits and is designed to support the new education plan that was voted by the school committee and building committee.”

Additional public outreach meetings are planned for the next year in an attempt to engage more residents in the process and ensure voters make informed decisions when it comes to funding the project, he said.

“We are on sort of an accelerated rate of trying to move the project forward,” Crabtree said. “We have been able to make some of the benchmarks sooner than scheduled. We look forward to continuing to have a partnership with the MSBA.”

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Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.