Plans for high school expansion continue to develop

A+train+blasts+by+the+rear+of+the+Brigham+and+Women%27s+Physicians+Organization+building.+The+location+is+planning+to+be+replaced+with+a+new+part+of+the+campus+in+the+coming+high+school+expansion.++NICK+EDDINGER%2FSAGAMORE+STAFF
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Plans for high school expansion continue to develop

A train blasts by the rear of the Brigham and Women's Physicians Organization building. The location is planning to be replaced with a new part of the campus in the coming high school expansion.  NICK EDDINGER/SAGAMORE STAFF

A train blasts by the rear of the Brigham and Women's Physicians Organization building. The location is planning to be replaced with a new part of the campus in the coming high school expansion. NICK EDDINGER/SAGAMORE STAFF

Nick Eddinger

A train blasts by the rear of the Brigham and Women's Physicians Organization building. The location is planning to be replaced with a new part of the campus in the coming high school expansion. NICK EDDINGER/SAGAMORE STAFF

Nick Eddinger

Nick Eddinger

A train blasts by the rear of the Brigham and Women's Physicians Organization building. The location is planning to be replaced with a new part of the campus in the coming high school expansion. NICK EDDINGER/SAGAMORE STAFF

Nick Eddinger, Arts Editor

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The image of a grand and illustrious expansion for the high school, made months ago, continues to go as planned.

Back in November of 2017, the Sagamore reported on the plans to expand the high school from its current state in preparation for the massive jump in enrollment of students in the coming years. The article detailed plans that included an overhaul of certain areas in the main building, the repurposing of the science wing and an entirely new facility to be built next to the Brookline Hills T-stop.

As of now, the original plans have stayed their course, and the project continues on the road to approval in the early spring.

According to member of the Board of Selectmen Nancy Heller, the reception to the current plans has been positive.

We have worked with neighbors,” Heller said. “We’ve taken their suggestions into account.  We have worked hard with the staff of the high school, teachers. We have a student rep on our committee. I am very pleased with how it’s going in terms of the feedback.”

Although this is the case, the planning has not been without its troubles. The plans to build over the MBTA tracks near the United Arts Building on Sumner Road are still in place, but the planning committee has found difficulty deciding on logistics pertaining to the actual construction.

“The issue is that they don’t want to stop the train during the day, so they only want to do it between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., when the trains aren’t running,” Heller said. “We are going to have to work on how we can do that.”

According to Assistant Headmaster Hal Mason, the construction may seem like a daunting process, but it is all part of the job.

“We’re all worried about construction,” Mason said. “Our job is to make sure that the kid who comes to school in the class of 2023, the kid who’s in 7th grade, has a really good high school experience. They’re going to have a very different experience, but our job is to make sure that the kid who graduates in 2023 has a really good four years here.”

The committee, as well as several others involved in the planning, is discovering a way to address this as well as some other concerns over construction.

Headmaster Anthony Meyer has heard the concerns over isolation in what is planned to be a primarily 9th grade building, and he is working on building a more socially adept environment.

“I think we would be doing our kids a disservice if we didn’t think about how spaces build community and allow people to gather,” Meyer said. “Formally, we have an MLK room, but there are all kinds of informal opportunities. The new, smaller cafeteria we are really excited about. In 111 Cypress, we are looking at having little pockets near various classrooms where classes can spill out and use if you are working on a project or just hang out and study.”

According to Meyer, addressing concerns over green space is still in the works.

“My sense is there is a lot of concern about turf from neighbors wanting this to feel like a park where they can come for a picnic and walk their dog. There is a real interest in better usable athletic space,” Meyer said. “I think some of it is how do we use the field, which remains an open question. What is the right balance for the town?”

Heller also commented on concerns over the environmental impact and how they are planning to be addressed.

“The architect has a consult called the Green Engineer to make sure our building meets very specific environmental codes.  We would love to be fossil fuel free, but this is not realistic because of the cold.”

Although these and several other issues are already being talked about, Heller said that solidified planning and funding have yet to be nailed down.

“We need to nail down our plans, and we need to nail down our budget; that is the task ahead,” Heller said.

According to Mason, the current plan is not the most optimal, but it is the best plan possible given the current situation.

“There’s always going to be…limitations,” Mason said. “But we think it’s the best solution given the many constraints we have. There’s nowhere else in town to build a school this big.”

Heller remained optimistic for the reception of the plan when it comes time for the town to approve it.

“We vote on this project in late February or mid-March,” Heller said. “We put it on the ballot, handled by the town…I think it is going to be great.”

As of March 26th, the voting period has concluded. According to Meyer, all three of the public bodies including the school committee, building commission, and select board all voted unanimously in favor of the planned project.

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