Council Approves $5 Million to “Bridge” Watertown High School Project Before Start of Construction

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Ai3 Architects

A mockup of what the main entrance to the new Watertown High School could look like from a presentation designers made to the School Building Committee in September 2021.

As the new Watertown High School continues to be designed, the Town Council approved $5.2 million to bridge the gap before the final approval of funding is given by the state and to keep construction on schedule.

The money will help pay for the design of the swing spaces that will be used while the school is under construction, as well as to cover the increased amount of time that it took to come up with the final design, Christy Murphy of Compass Project Management told the Council Tuesday night.

The money to cover the $5.2 million came out of the Watertown High School Stabilization Fund, said Town Manager Michael Driscoll said. The Council voted 8-0 to support the use of the funds.

Construction is planned to begin in June 2023, and the new high school is expected to be completed in early 2026.

About $1.1 million went toward the extended feasibility study period, Murphy said, with slightly more than $1 million going to the architects from Ai3 and just under $100,000 going to Compass.

“The preferred schematic phase took an additional 12 months because when we went before MSBA in January of 2021 we presented the two site preferred option — using exist high school and Phillips Administration site — and that was not received well by MSBA. We were asked to go back to the drawing board as a design team and a community, which we did,” Murphy said. “We went through preferred schematic phase twice.”

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The “bridge” money will get the swing spaces ready for the start of construction of the new WHS.

“In order for swing space to go out to bid — so we can renovate those spaces to be ready in advance of construction beginning in June 2023 — construction (on the swing space) has to begin at the end of 2022,” Murphy said.

Ai3 Architects

A view of the facade of the new Watertown High School from a presentation made to the School Building Committee. Construction on the new school is scheduled to start in June 2023 and be completed by early 2026.

Design of the swing space needs to begin in March 2022 to stay on schedule. The main swing space will be a campus of two-story modular classrooms to be built on Moxley Field, which sits next to Watertown Middle School. The school will also make use of some classrooms in the basement of the middle school, which will also require some work. Other programs at the high school will relocate to the basement of the former Phillips School, which is now houses the Watertown Public Schools’ administration.

Murphy said she expects the renovation work at the Phillips Building to begin this fall, while the bidding for the Moxley work is expected to go out in January 2022.

Superintendent Dede Galdston said that the high school students will first move into the modulars, which are expected to be better than the current facility, before moving into a state-of-the-art building which will not just have brand new rooms, but will be laid out to allow students to have an “engaging and innovative learning environment.”

“I believe we are on to something that is really spectacular,” Galdston said.

Councilor John Gannon said he was happy to support the proposal, and said he likes the idea of moving students out of the building during construction. He went to Watertown High School during the last renovation.

“The choice was made (when I was in school) to construct around the students and, having lived with three years of costruction dust and noise, I am happy to see what we are doing it right,” Gannon said. “We are constructing a first class high school in a wonderful location.”

Council President Mark Sideris, who also chairs the School Building Committee, said that the fruit of the Building for the Future school building projects are beginning to be seen, with the completion of the new Cunniff Elementary in October, followed in early 2022 by the new Hosmer School, and down the road the new Watertown High School. He gave credit to those who worked on the projects.

“We’ve been — I’m not going to say lucky … we’ve got the greatest project team that you could ever imagine working with the School Building Committee, as well as the architecture firm,” Sideris said. “I can’t thank everyone enough for what they have done for the community.”

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