Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Updated August 24, 2021
1. Why are we performing a Feasibility Study?
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 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 eight 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. What options have been studied?
Ten design alternatives were discussed and evaluated by the SSBC. The Stoneham School Building Committee (SSBC) focused on the following criteria when developing the options: educational benefits, cost, minimal disruption during construction, sustainability, community use and traffic. The SSBC narrowed the options down to five at their September 20, 2020 meeting and selected the preferred option at the December 16, 2020 meeting. The Committee then developed detailed design documents for this option, and on June 21, 2021 voted to approve the Schematic Design for submission to the MSBA for approval.
5. What is included in the project?
The Feasibility Study has concluded that the most cost-effective, sustainable and educationally appropriate solution is a new Stoneham High School. The proposed new building will be sited on the current Franklin Street property in the southeast corner, on what is currently a practice field. The building design is comprised of two wings, connected by Spartan Place on the first floor and a media bridge on the second floor. The east side of the building will house the District Offices, the High School offices, the Pre-Kindergarten Program, academic classrooms on the second and third floors, a gymnasium with an elevated walking track, and the food service and cafeteria area with access to Spartan Plaza, an outdoor seating and potentially classroom space. The west side of the building will be two stories with a state-of-the-art Auditorium with media spaces, music and choral class spaces and maker spaces.
The current design also includes an amphitheater for outdoor school and community cultural events, community walking paths around the perimeter of the property, re-aligned athletic fields with turf or natural grass and tennis courts all of which will also be accessible to town leagues.
6. What is included in the total project cost?
The total project cost is $189.6 million and the MSBA will reimburse the Town approximately $49.0 million. The estimated project cost to Stoneham is $140.6 million.
For a 30-year fixed bond estimated at 3.0%, the average annual tax impact will be approximately $1.44 per $1,000 of assessed residential value. On the average home assessed at $577,700, the estimated tax increase is an average of $832 per year. Reimbursement amount subject to MSBA approval. Finance terms and tax impact estimated.
7. What is included in the total project cost?
The total project cost estimate includes all construction costs – site work, playfields and demolition of the existing school. It also includes design fees, construction-related testing costs, construction contingencies and new furniture and educational technology equipment.
8. How was the 695 student Design Enrollment determined?
The MSBA invited the Town into the Eligibility Period in December 2018 based on the conditions identified in the Statement of Interest. The Eligibility Period was a 270-day period during which the Town was required to complete certain preliminary requirements. One of these requirements was to agree on the amount of students a revitalized Stoneham High School would be designed to house.
The process entailed Stoneham providing enrollment, housing, and development information to the MSBA. The MSBA developed a 10-year enrollment projection for the school. In a collaborative process, the MSBA and the Town participated in a Design Enrollment conference to review the MSBA’s projection, which calculated a 660 student Stoneham High School. The Town responded that key aspects of proposed housing developments and potential reductions in student out-migration may not have been adequately factored in and the MSBA increased their projection to 695 students. In September 2019, the Town and MSBA agreed that a revitalized Stoneham High School would be designed to house 695 grades 9-12 students.
9. When will the Town be voting to approve the project?
A Town Meeting is scheduled for October 4, 2021 to approve the funding for the project. The ballot vote to approve the exclusion of the costs from the so-called Proposition 2 ½ will occur on November 2, 2021.
10. 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 with construction commencement scheduled for Summer 2022.
11. When will the school construction be completed?
The building construction will commence Summer 2022 and is estimated to be completed for the school year 2024, with the existing building demolition and sitework following thereafter. The parking lots will be completed in late Fall 2024 and the playfields the Spring of 2025.
12. 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.
13. Will ongoing use of Stoneham High School be impacted during construction?
No, the distance between construction activity and the day-to-day functions of the existing school is designed to be adequate to ensure safety and no disruption of the educational process. A fenced-off construction zone, with dedicated construction vehicles access, will be constantly monitored for safety.
14. Will Franklin Street traffic be affected?
The project includes mitigation measures to improve the traffic along Franklin Street, especially during morning school arrivals. The roadways and parking has been expanded and redesigned to improve traffic flow and provide more queuing space for cars on site and off of Franklin Street. Additionally, a new traffic signal is being planned for the Stevens Street intersection, synchronized with the new signal at the school entrance to improve traffic circulation.
15. What does Zero Net Energy mean and why is it important to Stoneham?
Zero Net Energy (ZNE) means a building produces as much clean, renewable energy on the building and surrounding grounds in a given year as it uses from the electric company. So overall at the end of the one-year period, it has zeroed out the energy it used from the utility by producing an equal amount of clean renewable energy locally. This is important to Stoneham as the high school will be the single largest energy use building in Town and being ZNE will reduce Town costs over the decades to come.
16. How can I keep informed of the high school project?