During the Community Forum on the new Watertown High School, questions were brought up about the use of Moxley Field for the temporary WHS site and about the size of the gym. Officials also updated the timeline for the design and construction of the new WHS.
The high school project took a big step forward last week when the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) Board voted on Aug. 25 to let the project move into the schematic design phase. The same day, the School Building Committee held a Community Forum on the WHS project.
The schematic design phase will run through the rest of 2021, said Christy Murphy, from Compass (Watertown’s owner’s project manager firm).
“Schematic design will continue through November when we will be sending the documents out to estimators, so we will really understand the final scope and budget of the project, as well as the reimbursement from the MSBA,” Murphy said.
The designs will be submitted to the MSBA’s Facilities Assessment Subcommittee in January and go before the MSBA Board likely in February. If the state gives the go ahead, the construction documents will be created, with 60 percent documents finished in September, and 90 percent by the end of the year.
“Each of these we send to the state, they make comments, and we respond,” Murphy said.
The construction project would begin after school ends in June 2023, starting with the demolition of the old school, Murphy said. The construction would continue through December 2025, with hopes of getting the new building furnished, equipped and ready to open after February vacation 2026.
While the school is being constructed, WHS students will move over to a temporary school made up of state-of-the-art two-story modular classrooms put up on Moxley Field, next to Watertown High School. Design of the temporary school is scheduled to begin March 2022, and the construction would start in November 2022. They would be ready to move the high school over in June 2023, Murphy said.
The use of Moxley Field for the swing space during construction was unpopular with some in town, especially residents of the nearby neighborhoods. They cited the loss of use of the field, increased traffic, and having two large schools next to each other among their concerns. The School Building Committee voted to use the site because they said no other sites in town could accommodate the temporary school. Also, the proximity to the middle school would give students access to facilities such as a gym and auditorium, and they would the best educational experience if Moxley was used.
Former Town Councilor and current Governor’s Councilor Marilyn Petitto Devaney said the Moxley Field property falls under the control of the Recreation Department, and she questions whether School Building Committee has to power to “take” land from the Recreation Department.
Council President Mark Sideris said he would send the questions about that, and about the deed on the property, to the Town’s attorneys at KP Law. Devaney said she would like to get a legal opinion of a neutral party, rather than the Town’s attorneys.
Murphy added that the project would not take the land, because it is a temporary use for aronund three years. Renovation of Moxley Field after students move to the new school would begin in the summer of 2026, she added.
Former Recreation Director Tom Sullivan asked whether the gym at the new high school would be as big as the current one. Murphy said the one in the design sent to the MSBA has a 15,000 sq. ft. gym. Sullivan sent School Building Committee a mock up of a larger gym.
“Tom laid out a gym with 18,000 sq. ft., the maximum allowed by the MSBA,” Murphy said. “It would increase the cost (compared to the current design). Tom did bring up the interesting point of getting two 50 (foot) by 84 (foot) courts in the gym. We are looking at that, also.”
Sullivan said he is concerned Watertown is losing recreation space during the school building projects, including a smaller gym at Hosmer Elementary School, loss of some of the field at the Hosmer, and a reduced field space at Cunniff Elementary School. He does not want to see that happen at the high school.
Sideris said Superintendent Dede Galdston would sit down with Watertown Athletic Director Ryan Murphy to discuss the gym, and whether gym in the design meets the school’s needs. Galdston will report back at the Sept. 1 School Building Committee meeting. That meeting will also include updated exterior designs, Murphy said. See more information about the Sept. 1 meeting, which begins at 6 p.m., by clicking here.