SAUGUS — Foundations are being laid for the new, $186 million middle-high school and the project is continuing to progress on track, developers say.
“Over this past summer, a lot of exciting things have happened at the site,” said project manager Kevin Nigro of PMA Consultants in a Building Committee meeting Monday afternoon. “For the past two months, we have really hit the ground running.”
Following the groundbreaking, temporary offices and parking areas were established within the fenced-off portion of the site to keep the development from interfering with the students’ school day.
Foundation permits were secured from Inspectional Services, water, sewer, and drainage infrastructure was installed, ground improvements were completed, and footing and foundation installation began in the past three months.
“From this point out you’ll see more foundations and walls going up,” said Nigro. “Later in the fall you’ll see steel.”
The new school will be 270,000 square feet with a 12,000-square-foot gymnasium, 750-seat auditorium, and capacity for 1,360 students. It will have state-of-the-art science labs and technology classrooms, fine and performing arts classrooms, a sports complex and outdoor track, outdoor classroom space and student gardens.
Tina Stanislaski, project manager with HMFH Architects Inc., said the team looked at historic buildings and sites in Saugus to draw inspiration for the school’s architecture.
The Saugus Iron Works that exists today is a reconstruction of the first successful, integrated iron works in the New World which produced wrought iron and cast iron products from 1646 to 1670. The site is considered the birthplace of the iron and steel industry in Colonial America, according to the National Park Service website.
“The power of that site is in the water wheel and that’s how they generated power to do what they needed to do,” Stanislaski said at a meeting earlier this year. “We looked at those as our different hubs in the classroom pods where the work is taking place for the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) program the town is promoting now.”
The bellows inside the iron works inspired the angular shapes in the school’s entrance, and the hallways that transport students to their classrooms will follow the route of the Saugus River.
The building is broken down into three parts and includes two classroom pods on either end of shared programs, like the gym, auditorium and media center, said Stanislaski.
A light well will be featured in each of the classroom pods with a graphic that will teach students about the history of their town.
Tens of thousands of commuters who pass by the school on Route 1 will see a lit sign that lets them know they are passing by the heart of the town, Stanislaski said.
Trees for the property will be grown at the town’s tree farm.
Building project committee members questioned whether measures were taken to ensure the safety of students. Stanislaski said that they had, but cautioned designers against releasing too much information about safety plans that could put students at risk.
But, for starters, there will only be one main entrance for visitors during the day.
“It will be locked,” she said.
Someone in the office will be able to see the visitor and decide whether to allow the person in. The area visitors enter will also be secured, she said.
Resident Lynnette Alameddine demanded more assurance.
“My son was murdered in the Virginia Tech massacre,” she said. “My concern is naturally safety. If you have that vestibule in the front, would it be bulletproof glass for that part?”
She also questioned a section of the building that is left open with railings. If a mentally ill student wanted to harm another student, they could toss a person over the railings, she said.
“We don’t want to advertise what the police or fire might do (in an emergency),” said Nigro. “(Safety) was one of the primary goals right up front.”
The school is expected to be completed by 2020.
The hope is that the school will help facilitate the district’s goal of moving from a Level 3 to a Level 1 school district and allow fair and equal access for all students to reach their highest potential, according to a statement from Town Manager Scott Crabtree.