AHS Building Project Town Meeting Member Tours - Nov 6th, 2018

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Attended a tour of the Arlington High School for town meeting members. This was the first time I'd ever set foot inside our town's high school. I'd heard the inside was a bit of a jumble, but I had no idea it was this bad. My early impressions were something between "Frankenbuilding" and "Dungeons and Dragons" -- a disorganized jumble of stairways, halls, and rooms.

Our high school was built piecemeal over several decades: in 1914, 1938, 1960, 1961, 1964, and 1980. So perhaps this isn't surprising.

The first classroom we visited had a network cabinet mounted high on the wall, and the switches emitted a steady whoosh. Members of my group felt it was loud enough to be distracting.

The floor plans have evolved over time, and many of the classes have pillars right in the middle of the room. You have to arrange things around the pillars, and sometimes they're an obstruction.

One of the student tour guides said that the band room isn't large enough for the entire band: they have to rehearse half the band at a time. The band room also lacks space to store all of the music stands. She said they stashed a bunch of them in a nearby english classroom.

The cafeteria was built for 375 people, and is usually 75 students over capacity (20%). Our guide said there's not enough room for everyone to sit down during lunch periods. "We used to eat over there (motions hand to another part of the building), but the ceiling started to fall in and kids aren't allowed there anymore. So we eat outside if we can't find a place to sit".

The school's media center has low ceilings. The area used to be a large hall or auditorium, but was subdivided vertically to create two floors. Our guide said that students had to sign up to use the media center, in advance of the period in which they intended to use it. She said this as a problem for students who needed to print out a document.

I understand that one man's junk is another man's treasure, but I can't classify the Arlington High school building as treasure in any sense of the word. If nothing else, I'm all the more impressed by people in the school district who've been working around the limitations of the facility.

After the tour, the different groups gathered in a study room, for questions and answers.

Adam Chapdelaine expected the debt exclusion to produce an $801/year property tax increase, for a $655k home. That's an increase of $1.22/mil.

I was impressed by the plans to phase the construction. The new building will consist of four wings. Two of these will be built in front of the existing building; during this time, classes will continue in the old. Classes will move into the first two wings when they're done, and that will allow part of the old facility to be demolished, and a third wing to be constructed. Once the third wing is constructed, classes will be held in the three new wings, while the last wing is built. The town will not need to use any modular classrooms during construction.

Some attendees objected to the phasing, because it would reduce the amount of open space in front of the school. I understand this is a compromise, and I think the school district made the right choice by building out front, and opening up more space in back.

The town considered renovating the existing building (MSBA requires towns to consider this option). Both the town and the MSBA felt renovation was not a feasible option.

The total price tag is estimated at $308M. This is based on concept plans, total square footage, and current construction costs per square foot. There are two more stages to the design process: schematic design, and construction drawings. Estimates will be refined as the town moves through these phases.