Progress Being Made on School Building Projects, But it May be Slowed by Social Distancing Orders

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Watertown School officials continue to work on the school building projects at the three elementary schools and the high school during the Coronavirus outbreak, but they may eventually hit a roadblock due to restrictions imposed during the outbreak.

Town Council President Mark Sideris wrote an update to the School Building Committee about the progress of the School Building Projects. Progress could be slowed by the social distancing requirements, particularly limiting the number of people who can gather in one place.

“Work on all projects is still continuing even though we are not meeting as a committee,” Sideris wrote in the letter.

Work at Hosmer and Cunniff is planned to start in late June, right after the school year ends, but the School Building Committee had to postpone community meetings at both schools where they planned to update the communities on the projects.

“We will hopefully still be able to have community meetings at the Hosmer and Cunniff and still be able to start construction on time,” Sideris said.

The designs for Watertown High School are also continuing. Designers at Ai3 Architects, which is designing both projects, are putting together potential school designs for the two locations that the School Building Committee left on the table — the current site and Victory Field, Sideris said.

The inability to hold a public meeting looms over the high school project, too. It is a requirement for the Massachusetts School Building Authority process, and one was planned for late March but had to be postponed.

“One of the concerns I have is that we were supposed to have a community forum at the High School and we were not able to do that,” Sideris wrote. “I really do not want to have a meeting where we go over updated designs until we are able to have the general public be able to come to a meeting and participate in the discussion.”

Sideris said he wants to make sure residents are included in the discussion because they will be asked in the future to approve funding for about half of the WHS project.

“I think it is very important that we take this more cautious approach, especially for the High School, as we will need as much support as possible for a debt exclusion override,” Sideris told the School Building Committee.

Bidding on Elementary School Projects

The projects to rebuild Cunniff and Hosmer elementary schools have been put out to bid, with subcontractor bids due on April 9 and general contractor bids due on April 29, Sideris said.

“There have been requests made by the bidders for extension to these dates. Given that, the Purchasing Agent has extended these dates by one week to April 16th and May 6th both at 10 a.m.,” Sideris wrote. “The Purchasing Dept. has also authorized all of these to be submitted
electronically so that will keep us on schedule.”

Sideris said that the School District should get good estimates, due in part to the slowdown caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

“My understanding is that we should be in a very good position to get competitive bids as there may not be as much work of this size out there because of the situation we are in,” Sideris said.

Work on the third elementary school, Lowell, will start at a later date. Ai3 continues to design the renovation of that school.

4 thoughts on “Progress Being Made on School Building Projects, But it May be Slowed by Social Distancing Orders

  1. In regards to the building of a new high, now is not the time to even consider asking residents to pay hundreds of dollars more a year in taxes. The planning for a new high school should be postponed and revisited when things are more stable.

    Almost every family I know in town is impacted by this crisis in a financial way, either through temporary loss of employment or the very possibility of losing their job permanently. Small businesses in town are also feeling the impact and some business analyst are predicting that this crisis will result in at least 35% of small businesses closing.

    The real estate market is also sure to take a financial hit. Quite possible is that buyers that recently bought will find themselves upside down on a mortgage and the rest of us will lose equity in our homes.

    Asking residents to come up with another $800.00 a year or more to pay for this is not fair and won’t fly with voters. While I agree the high school is in need of attention now is not the time to ask the residents to pay for it. The town needs to make do with what they have and wait for a stronger and more stabile environment.

  2. Agreed. This is not the time to ask for an override. We are in a recession coupled with massive unemployment. Experts believe things will get worse before they get better. An override will not pass. At the state level they are projecting a budget shortfall of $1.3 to $1.8 BILLION. We know businesses aren’t paying rents. Local business tax revenue will fall. That means the shortfall will shift to homeowners. How much can Watertown homeowners afford? I also haven’t heard anything from the Town as to what they are doing to control expenses.

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