The final touches are being made on the temporary campus in preparation for Watertown High School students to return to class on Sept. 5, and the students and staff alike will have to adapt to their new digs, which include sites outside the modular campus at Moxley Field.
Principal Joel Giacobozzi told the WHS community that they will have to adjust to a new way of “doing school,” in the introduction in the student handbook (see below). Meanwhile, construction crews continue to work to get the two-story school made from prefabricated modules ready for class.
On the first day of school, ninth- and 10th-graders will have a half-day orientation in the morning, and in the afternoon it will be the 11th- and 12th-graders’ turn.
“That will give kids the opportunity to not only hear from administrators about the handbook but give them a chance to tour every part of the campus,” Giacobozzi said.
While the modulars will host the majority of classes and activities, WHS students will also be shuttling across the street to Watertown Middle School for some subjects, and to the Watertown Boys & Girls Club for physical education classes.
“Nothing was off the table. We thought about what community partners we have,” Giacobozzi said. “The Boys & Girls Club is an amazing community partner. They wanted to work with us, we wanted to work with them. We needed the space and a lot of kids are used to working with them.”
WHS students will make use of the indoor and outdoor facilities at the Boys & Girls Club. The clubhouse is located on Whites Avenue, and is about a 7 minute walk from Moxley Field, according to Google Maps. An additional 5 minutes between periods has been added to allow students to get to the middle school, and a staff member will escort students between the Boys & Girls Club and the main campus.
Giacobozzi noted that the students were used to going back and forth to Victory Field for PE classes from the old high school, which is a bit of a longer walk, he said.
“We have a shorter distance (this year), and we have that wonderful walking path to Boys & Girls Club,” he said, referring to the Community Path between Whites Avenue and Waverley Avenue.
The “Garden Level” of the Middle School will be the place where Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes will be held, and will also house a special education classroom. Students will also be able to eat lunch at a cafeteria on the bottom level of the Middle School. Juniors and seniors will have open campus, Giacobozzi said, so they can leave campus for lunch.
Giacobozzi said in the letter, as well as at the School Building Committee, that the school expects to make adjustments early on after seeing how well the school operates at its interim location.
He was asked about the student pick-up and drop-off at the new school during last week’s School Building Committee meeting. He said the students will get instructions during the first day orientation at the new school.
“I will work with staff to lay out ground rules and, more importantly, the goal for me and my administrative team is to be out on the street to make sure that students behave and make sure everything is operating smoothly,” said Giacobozzi, who encouraged neighbors and others to provide input. “Tell us early and often, and we will adjust because we know adjustments will have to be made.”
City Council Vice President Vincent Piccirilli, who represents the district where Moxley is located, said that members of the Police Department’s Traffic Division, the school leadership team, and the construction team will be on hand early in the school year to “keep eyes on things.”
Superintendent Dede Galdston confirmed that message.
“The intention is for (school administrators) being out there, being present, making sure students — especially first couple weeks — understand the routine and expectations,” Galdston said.
Bemis Street will be the center for morning drop-offs and afternoon pick-ups, Giacobozzi said. cars can come down Waverley Avenue in either direction and turn onto Bemis Street.
In addition, students had the opportunity to sign up to ride one of three school buses to campus. During a recent Traffic Commission meeting, a presentation showed that 427 WHS students had signed up to ride the bus. The start time of the Middle School and High School will be staggered to spread out the traffic, with middle schoolers starting at 7:45 a.m. and high schoolers at 8:30 a.m.
During the day, Bemis Street will be closed to traffic, Giacobozzi said,
“We have to have kids cross over Bemis to get over to the Middle School,” he said.
Construction crews are in a “full court press” to prepare the temporary high school for inspections this week, said Chase Terrio from Vertex, the district’s project management firm. Moving trucks began moving items from the old high school to the Moxley site last week. As of Tuesday, they have moved into the second floor of the modular school, Giacobozzi said.
The school will have electricity to power the school when it opens, but the construction team had to make some quick adjustments to make sure that would be the case. On Aug. 15 Eversource installed a transformer on Howard Street, but utility poles must still be installed to get the wires across Main Street, to the modular school, Terrio said.
As a backup, a generator has been installed at Moxley. Terrio is not sure how long the school will have to be on generator power. City Council President Mark Sideris, who chairs the School Building Committee, said that multiple officials have been in contact with Eversource to push for the poles to be installed, including State Rep. Steve Owens.
It’s hard to miss the generator, but it the noise generated does not match its size, Piccirilli said.
“I have gone by everyday and I was shocked to see the size of the generator,” he said. “It’s incredibly insulated, incredibly quiet. It is surprising how well the sound insulation has done on the generator.”
Terrio said that the cost of installing the generator and required equipment is about $65,000.
Watertown High School Principal Joel Giacobozzi’s Introduction for the WHS Student Handbook
Dear Students and Families,
We are entering into a transitional phase of the journey to a new high school for Watertown. While this is an exciting time, this may also present challenges and change the way that we are used to “doing school”. This handbook addendum is a way for us to try to get ahead of questions and operational bumps in the road. While this is an official document, please understand that a temporary space will require adjustments.
Watertown High School consists of three locations that make up one campus: PFC Moxley Field (herein referred to as “Moxley”), the Middle School garden level (herein referred to as “WMS garden level”), and the Watertown Boys and Girls Club. Most academic courses meet in Moxley. CTE courses meet in the WMS garden Level. PE Courses meet at the Boys and Girls Club.
Having multiple locations on our campus will require students to manage their time effectively and efficiently. Passing time has been extended to 5 minutes to allow students that need to travel to the WMS garden level enough time to pass. Students will be escorted to and from the Boys and Girls Club and will be given enough time to make their next class.
Don’t worry, we are all in this together and we will learn as we go; we are all lifelong learners.
-Mr. Giacobozzi, Principal