Groundbreaking Ceremony Celebrates Start of Construction of Watertown’s Net Zero Energy High School

Groundbreaking for the new Watertown High School included the City, School, and State officials. From left, Deputy City Administrator Emily Monea, WHS Principal Joel Giacobozzi, Superintendent Dede Galdston, City Council President Mark Sideris, State Rep. John Lawn, State Sen. Will Brownsberger, State Rep. Steve Owens, MSBA CEO Jim MacDonald, and Assistant City Manager Steve Magoon. (Photo by Charlie Breitrose)

A celebration many years in the making took place in Watertown Thursday to mark the beginning of the creation of an asset that will last for generations: the new Watertown High School. Superintendent Dede Galdton said she recalls the wheels already being in motion when she arrived in the district in 2017 when she was told the goal was to build a new, state-of-the-art high school, along with three elementary schools. “We are just so excited to begin the work, not that the work hasn’t been going on for the last five or six years, but the actual demolition and rebuilding of this beautiful place,” Galdston said.

Council Approves Borrowing $198 Million for State of the Art, Green Watertown High School

Ai3 ArchtiectsA rendering of what the new Watertown High School will look like (note the colors have not been settled). The City Council approved borrowing $198 million to construct the new school. School and City officials hailed the City Council’s approval of funding to build the new Watertown High School as an important step not just for the students of Watertown, but the community as a whole. Tuesday night’s approval of the borrowing of $198.8 million opens the way for the final planning and construction of a state-of-the-art, and energy efficient building to be constructed on the site of the current school. The figure covers the cost of construction, plus the creation of temporary swing space at Moxley Field.

Watertown High School Project Design Sent to State for Approval

Ai3 ArchitectsAn illustration of what the outside of the new Watertown High School will look like. The final design concept for the new Watertown High School project, and the budget of nearly $200 million, received approval from the School Committee and the School Building Committee on Wednesday night. The schematic design report, including the designs and the budget of $198.39 million, will be sent to the Massachusetts School Building Authority Board to be considered at its meeting on March 2, 2022. The project will be paid for by the City of Watertown through borrowing, but it will not require a temporary property tax override to cover the cost, said City Auditor Tom Tracy. “The Town is carrying $200 million in debt services for the high school project,” Tracy said. 

The project design has reached its goal of Zero Net Energy, said Project Designer Jordan of Ai3 Architects, including 1.4 megawatts of electricity to be produced by the solar photovoltaic array at the school.

State Board Approves Design of New Watertown High School

Ai3 ArchitectsA rendering of what the new Watertown High School could look like. The view is from Common Street. The design of the new Watertown High School got the endorsement of the Massachusetts School Building Authority on Wednesday. Superintendent Dede Galdston sent out a letter saying that the MSBA Board of Directors unanimously supported moving the WHS project to the schematic design phase. “At this time, the design team, the OPM, and the School Building Committee will prepare for the next big milestone, the Board approval of participation in our project,” Galdston said in a letter to school and town officials.

State Officials Have Questions About High School Project, May Delay Final Vote

A conceptual design of the preferred option for the New Watertown High School, looking down Common Street toward Mt. Auburn Street. The date of the public vote on funding for the Watertown High School project may have to be pushed back after state officials had questions about the size and design of the proposed new school. After reviewing the preferred design of the new WHS, the Facilities Assessment Subcommittee of the Mass. School Building Authority sent back comments, and request for more investigation into other options after their meeting on Jan.

Architects Show Design Ideas for New Watertown High School

A rendering of what a new high school could look like if it’s built on the current site and the Phillips School site. In this option, a bridge would link the buildings on the third floor. The current site, on the right, would be the location of the auditorium, gym, school administrative offices and Senior Center. The School Building Committee saw what a new Watertown High School could look like, including 3-D renderings of buildings that could be built on the two proposed locations for the school. On Wednesday night, Scott Dunlap from Ai3 Architects presented the latest renderings for the high school project during an online meeting.

Architects Examining Possible Spots for New Watertown High School

Designers showed a mockup of a new school building that could fit on the current Watertown High School site. One of the biggest questions with the project to rebuild or renovate Watertown High School is where the building will be located. Wednesday night, project architect Scott Dunlap, of Ai3 Architects, presented some of the options to the School Building Committee, along with some of the pros and cons of each site. “The challenge of the Building Committee over the next three months is not to decide on the design of the high school, or even pick a location, but to identify which sites would be viable for consideration,” Dunlap said. The three main sites being examined are the current high school site, the combined Victory Field complex/Department of Public Works Facility, and Moxley Field.