The 52 year-old Stoneham High School, originally constructed as a Junior High School, has served the community well. The school has reached a point that it no longer meets today’s building codes, has inefficient and inoperable systems and does not support the educational curriculum. The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) has visited the school and agrees. The Feasibility Study is to investigate these conditions and develop a cost effective, sustainable and educationally appropriate solution to the aging Stoneham High School. The Stoneham School Building Committee (SSBC) has no preconceived solutions and will investigate renovation, renovation with addition, and new construction options. The MSBA process is rigorous and transparent, and with the approval of the MSBA, the state will provide a grant to support the cost of the project.
2. How long has the Feasibility Study been underway?
This process commenced over seven years ago with the submission of the initial Statement of Interest (SOI) for the Stoneham High School to the MSBA by the Select Board and School Committee. The MSBA deferred the SOI, as well as subsequent submissions for five successive years until the March 2018 submission, which MSBA reviewed and approved in December 2018, agreeing that a Feasibility Study should be undertaken on the Stoneham High School. The Town and the MSBA executed an agreement for the Feasibility Study in February 2020, which is being overseen by the SSBC.
3. What is the role of the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA)?
The MSBA is the state authority that administers and funds a program of grants for Massachusetts public school projects. The MSBA mandates a multi-step rigorous study and approval process encompassed within the Feasibility Study.
4. How much will the final design cost Stoneham’s taxpayers?
The final number will be established when options are presented to the SSBC. Currently, Stoneham will be reimbursed 52.06% of reimbursable items. The percentage could grow. However, there will be costs that are not reimbursable that will be included in the total cost of the project.
5. What happens if the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) doesn’t want to fund everything we want?
Any aspects of a build/renovation for the high school that are not approved for reimbursement by the MSBA will have to be funded entirely by the Town.
6. How will the unreimbursed cost be funded?
All costs, both reimbursable and non-reimbursable, will be funded through the Town via a vote at Town Meeting to approve a debt-exclusion ballot question for the total cost.
7. How much input will the community have in the ultimate design of the high school?
The SSBC will ensure that all community members have the opportunity to share in the design process through a variety of methods. The SSBC will host community listening sessions or forums, both virtually and in-person, throughout the Feasibility Study process. Additionally, the Committee’s bi-weekly meetings are posted and open to the public and all project information is posted on the Town of Stoneham SSBC webpage: https://www.stoneham-ma.gov/hsbc.
8. Will the final decision be to renovate the existing building or build a new building and who will make that decision?
Once the Feasibility Study is completed, the SSBC will analyze the pros and cons of renovating versus building new. With all the information gathered, the Committee will consider all options and make a final recommendation to Town Meeting.
9. When will the school construction be completed?
The SSBC has begun the process and anticipates that it will take at least five years before the doors to a new/renovated Stoneham High School will open to welcome students. The schedule will be further refined as the Feasibility Study progresses.
10. The School Department already had a feasibility study done for the high school, why do we need another one?
Town Meeting authorized its own feasibility study that was completed in 2018. The information from that study was used to successfully obtain an invitation from the MSBA to participate in the program. Once Stoneham was invited into the program, MSBA requires a more detailed Feasibility Study which includes more information than the initial study provided. The MSBA funds the feasibility study at the same rate, currently 52.06%.
11. What if the project is not approved by the Town?
The Town would lose millions of dollars in State grant funding to resolve the deteriorating conditions of the 52 year-old Stoneham High School. The Town would still have to spend significant dollars on capital improvements in the upcoming years to address deficiencies and bring the building up to current building codes without addressing educational programming. One hundred percent of these costs would be paid by the Town.
12. If funding approval for the proposed project does not pass at Town Meeting, can we use the State money to just repair the existing building?
No, reimbursement from the MSBA is only intended for use on a building project that meets the MSBA requirements.
13. When will the Town be voting to approve the project?
A Town Meeting is anticipated in Fall 2021 to approve the funding for the project. The ballot vote is anticipated thereafter to approve the exclusion of the costs from the so called Proposition 2½.
14. What happens if the project is approved by the taxpayers?
The project is moved into the design development phase during which the design and drawings are further refined. This is followed by the construction documents phase when the construction bid documents are prepared by the architect. Construction completion dates will depend on the approved solution.
15. Will ongoing use of Stoneham High School be impacted during construction?
No, if a new construction option is selected, the distance between construction activity and the day-to-day functions of the existing school will be designed to be adequate to ensure safety and no disruption of the educational process. A fenced-off construction zone, with a dedicated construction vehicles access, will be constantly monitored for safety. If a renovation and addition option is chosen, the construction will be phased and isolated to minimize impact on teaching and learning.
16. How can I keep informed of the high school project?