Bids on Elementary School Projects Under Budget, But COVID-19 Creates Additional Costs

The latest rendering of the new Cunniff Elementary School, with the solar array in the parking lot. The bids on the construction projects at two of Watertown’s elementary schools came in millions of dollars below budget, but the requirements for working in the COVID-19 world will mean some added costs. Hosmer and Cunniff schools will start construction in June, and the bids were recently opened, said Town Council President Mark Sideris. The project budget estimated the cost of the two schools at just over $100 million including the cost of adding solar on the school roofs ($5 million), Sideris said. “The good news is low bidder came in at $92,335,000 and all the solar came in at $2.6 million,” Sideris said.

Two Locations to be Considered for New Watertown High School

An illustration of how Watertown High School could be built on both sides of Common Street. In this scenario, the main academic building replaces the former Phillips School, while the gym, auditorium and Senior Center go on the current WHS site. The current site and the Victory Field complex will be the two sites considered for the location of the new Watertown High School, but not Moxley Field or other properties in town. Last week, the School Building Committee voted unanimously to send the preliminary design program to the Massachusetts School Building Authority. In prior meetings, the architects have presented mock ups of what a new school could look like on various sites, but Dunlap said that was just for demonstration.

Building Committee Narrowing Sites for New Watertown High School Soon

An illustration of how Watertown High School could be built on both sides of Common Street. In this scenario, the main academic building replaces the former Phillips School, while the gym, auditorium and Senior Center go on the current WHS site. The black white triangle is the historic cemetery next to WHS. The final decision on the site of the new Watertown High School is still months away, but the final list of places to be considered will be decided by the end of February. Architects and school officials have been looking at possible places where the new WHS could be built. They considered Town owned properties large enough to build a high school.

Residents Disagree Over Spot for New Watertown High School

An illustration of how a new high school building with a four story academic wing could fit on the current WHS site. Architect Scott Dunlap stressed this is just a mock up to see if it would fit, not a design. Residents attending Tuesday’s Community Forum about the new Watertown High School project could not agree on which of the locations they would like to see the new school built.

The two most likely spots are the current WHS location on Columbia Street or building a school on part of the Victory Field complex on Orchard Street. Designers have eliminated the possibility of building on the Moxley Field site because it is too small, and said renovating the current building would be more costly than erecting a new school. Also, the design of the school, which dates back to the 1920s, would not work for modern teaching techniques.

Cunniff Elementary Moving to Waltham Site Next Fall, Speeding Up New Building

When Cunniff Elementary School students return to class in September, they will attend classes at a different campus, in a different city. The move will allow the current school to be torn down and replaced by a new building sooner and will save the district money. Cunniff’s temporary home will be the St. Jude’s School, a former parochial school in Waltham. Watertown school officials came to an agreement with the Boston Archdiocese to lease the school during Watertown’s school building project, known as Building for the Future.

Several Options for New High School, All Have Some Headaches

An illustration of how a new high school building with a four story academic wing could fit on the current WHS site. Architect Scott Dunlap stressed this is just a mock up to see if it would fit, not a design. Designers of the new Watertown High School presented several options for how and where new building could be built, but none of the options were simple and all have challenges. Last week, Scott Dunlap, the lead architect from Ai3 Architects, showed the School Building Committee some of the options for how a new high school could be built. With no obvious piece of unoccupied land, all the scenarios require tearing down existing buildings or displacing facilities, such as fields or the Senior Center. At a meeting in December, Dunlap presented some locations, including the existing high school site (both with or without the nearby former-Phillips School), the Victory Field site (both with or without the DPW facility), and Moxley Field.

Discuss the Options and Vision for the New High School at a Meeting on Jan. 21

The following information was provided by the Watertown Public Schools:

The Watertown High School School Building Committee (SBC) invites you to a community forum to discuss educational visioning and preliminary options for the High School Building Project. This is an opportunity for community members to learn about 21st century education and share their thoughts about the future of secondary education in Watertown. It will also provide an opportunity for community input on conceptual options and potential sites for the new high school at a very early stage of the project. WHEN: Tuesday, January 21, 2020, 6:30-8:00 p.m.

WHERE: Watertown High School Lecture Hall, 50 Columbia Street

The community is encouraged to come hear the progress on initial planning around the new high school. Contribute to the conversation and make your voice heard as we envision the future of high school education in Watertown.

School Building Committee Looking at Costs of Creating Net Zero Energy Schools

An example of a rack that holds photo voltaic panels. Similar racks are planned to go in the parking lots of Hosmer and Cunniff schools in an effort to generate electricity. Architects designing Watertown’s new elementary schools are searching for enough space to place solar panels to make them net zero energy schools, however the biggest challenge to meeting the energy efficiency mark could be the project budget. Scott Dunlap, project architect for the three elementary school projects, showed the School Building Committee plans for Hosmer to place enough photo voltaic panels to cover the school’s energy use, while at Cunniff architects still need to find space for more panels. Lowell School will be renovated, so designers are not seeking to make the school net zero.