Tour of Temporary High School Wows School & City Officials

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Charlie Breitrose Parker Helwig of J&J Contractors shows City and School officials around a classroom at the modular high school at Moxley Field.

Ooos, aahs, and genuine surprise were the reactions of the Watertown School and City officials this week when they got a look inside the temporary high school going up at Moxley Field.

Right now, the area between Main Street and Watertown Middle School has a bit of a barren feel, with the grey modulars in a large U on top of bare earth. Inside, the building feels much more like a typical school. The walls and ceilings are complete, except for the seams between the modules and the ceilings, which will be installed after the lights, electrical wires, fire sprinkler system and other systems are installed.

By August, the Moxley Campus will have a green quad next to the building, a parking lot, and the inside will be ready to house Watertown High School students for the next few school years while a new, permanent WHS building is constructed on the current site.

Charlie Breitrose

The outside of the temporary high school being built with modulars at Moxley Field.

School Committee Chair Kendra Foley liked what she saw inside the school. This came as a bit of a relief for Foley, with two of her three children set to spend part of their high school careers at the temporary school.

“Did I have some trepidation? Absolutely!” Foley said. “It’s amazing to think about, when they first started I was having a panic: Oh, my God! What is this? What’s going to happen?”

Fellow School Committee member Jessica Middlebrook said the interior is much more impressive than the outside of the school.

“I think the thing that is most shocking, when you see it from the outside it looks like a bunch of boxes, but it is really big inside — spacious and full of light,” she said. 

Charlie Breitrose School Committee members Kendra Foley and Jessica Middlebrook look out the window of a classroom at the modular high school.

School Committee member David Stokes liked the spacious feel of inside the modular campus.

“There’s a lot of space here,” he said. “I think that you can do anything for a couple years, three years, but it looks real. It doesn’t look like a Lego set, which is what some people said.”

The modular high school will be used for three school years under the construction schedule, said Superintendent Dede Galdston.

“No more than three years, but it could be a little shorter. The last projection (for moving to the new High School) is April 2026, but if things get delayed it could be summer 2026,” Galdston said. “We keep saying we’ll move in when they’re done, but it won’t be more than three years.” 

Charlie Breitrose The seam between two modular sections has been covered by wood. Those areas will be finished by mid-July when the temporary high school is expected to be completed.

The demolition of the current WHS building is expected to start in mid-September, said City Council President Mark Sideris, who chairs the School Building Committee. Originally, School officials hoped to start in June, but it is the swing space for the WHS project, the Lowell School project and other programs in the District may not be ready, he said.

Each module looks the same from the outside — a 16 x 37 box. Inside, walls were installed when they were built in the factory in Pennsylvania to create the classrooms and hallways, said Jim Jordan, Ai3 Architects’ Partner in charge in Watertown. The hallways go through the middle of the module, which then links up with the next one.

“The way we put them together, we laid it out so that it gives you nice, wide hallways,” Jordan said.

Charlie Breitrose School and city officials walk down the hallway of the modular high school under construction at Moxley Field.

Most of the classrooms will be 750 sq. ft., said Parker Helwig, Project Manager for J&J Contractors. The science classes will be about 50 percent larger.

The average size of the rooms at the current high school is 672 sq. ft., said Galdston, while some rooms at WHS are 500 sq. ft. She is familiar with what it is like to work in a modern modular classrooms.

“I started teaching in a modular, so I had a good sense of what they could be like,” Galdston said. “We kind of fought for the modulars because they are big and had great A/C so I kind of knew it was going to be better than what people thought it would be. (Having bigger rooms is) huge, that’s a major piece of teacher satisfaction and student satisfaction.”

At the intersections of the wings there will be girls and boys restrooms and some for staff, and on both floors, Helwig said.

A plan of the modular high school being built at Moxley Field, with the dining area in the quad inside the U section. Watertown Middle School is just off the top of the picture, and the temporary high school’s gym and cafeteria will be in the basement of WMS.

The question of where students will eat lunch was raised by some of the people on the tour.

“There will be a couple options,” Galdston said. “There is going to be a cafeteria at Middle School, and there will be a quad area between the wings (of the modular school). There will be seating — benches — and we will try to get a tent so they can go out there even if it is raining.”

The food service will take place on the basement floor of the Middle School, while WMS students will eat in their current cafeteria on the main floor of the school. The small gym in the basement will also be used by WHS students. Galdston added that seniors will have off-campus privileges so they can leave to get lunch. The school is considering extending that privilege to juniors, as well, she said.

With two large schools next to each other, traffic was a concern for school officials and neighbors. WHS students who live 3/4 of a mile or more from the temporary school will have the option to sign up for free school bus service. Also, the start and end times for the High School are 45 minutes after those for the Middle School.

Charlie Breitrose A stairway connecting the two floors of the temporary high school at Moxley Field.

Sideris expects people to be impressed by the modular high school.

“I guarantee people will be pleased with it, because people aren’t expecting to see this,” Sideris said. “People are expecting to see a trailer, because everyone’s perception of a modular is a trailer.”

The public will get a chance to look around the Moxley campus when it is complete.

“We should be done here in late-July, something like that,” Sideris said. “Then they’ll start moving furniture over. At some point in August we’ll probably do an open house.”

5 thoughts on “Tour of Temporary High School Wows School & City Officials

  1. Sideris expects people to be impressed with a modular building that will be functional at best for 3 full class years? Really, impressed?! Who are our elite leaders trying to kid? It is, what it is, there was no alternative for a building location thanks to the lack of foresight on behalf of town leaders of which Sideris has been one forever..

  2. Having been a middle school teacher for many years and a K to 8 teacher for fewer, I have seen first hand the difference of fifth graders becoming sixth graders going into a middle school environment as opposed to continuing on as sixth graders in a K to 8 environment. The pressures on these kids is reduced quite a bit in the K to 8 environment.

    I refer you to an updated article (March 23, 2023) in, based upon a study that Boston College did of students going into the high school as freshmen and the pressures that this brings to bear:

    I’m wondering if we can use the proximity of the high school and middle schools for these next few years to develop programs to ease eighth graders’ transitions into the high school environment?

  3. Hey now…. As a Parent of a student who missed the Cunniff redo, had to put up with the crappy improvements at the middle school, and will now miss the new
    High school, and since WPS only provides buses to god knows who – I see them but have never been able to get them to come to my part
    Of town….I’m glad it’s a manageable walking distance for kids in West Watertown….finally a win for us!! WooHoo!!!

    Btw it’s going to be a cold wet walk to lunch everyday in winter. And for Seniors I’m glad they have plenty of options to eat off campus; – DD, FitZ, Halfway Cafe, MiMis Roast Beef, Vaheys Liquor and Variety store, Spot Cafe, Inzuko, the Indian Restaurant next to the never-open sneaker store, and….well, not sure, but all of the above I am sure have very healthy options. Mmm The Spot has a great Steak and Cheese and the Haddock Bites at Halfway are yummy. You can order right at the bar!

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