High School Needs Millions in Repairs, New School an Option
Somerville High School faces about $9.5 million in repairs within the next four years. The city will conduct a study and look into building a new school.
Somerville High School needs almost $7 million worth of repairs and replacements within the next two years and nearly $9.5 million within the next four years, according to an engineering report released by the city Monday afternoon.
As a result of those projected costs, the city will study the short- and long-term needs of the school and consider the possibility of building a new high school.
"This news of our high school's significant repair needs provides a useful context for a review of our longer-term options," said Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone in a statement. "It may be the case than an altogether new school building may be the best and most cost-effective option."
$9.5 million worth of repairs and replacements needed; building is safe, says city
According to the engineering report, prepared for the city by Maguire Group Inc., the school needs substantial repairs and replacements to the brick exterior, masonry, windows and roof, among other things.
The central part of the school was built in 1895, and the last time any major work was done on the school was in 1986, when the building was remodeled and the city built the gymnasium and the Somerville Technical High School wing. There hasn't been any major improvements made to the school's exterior in 24 years, according to an announcement sent with the engineering report.
Jackie Rossetti, a spokesperson for the city, emphasized the school is completely safe for students and staff.
That said, Maguire Group listed approximately $500,000 worth of repairs that are of the highest priority and that need to be addressed as soon as possible.
- Rebuilding brick corners of the building "where the face brick is diagonally shearing off"
- Rebuilding brick above window heads
- Fixing the brickwork between windows "where the face brick is cracking off"
- Repairing cracked window sills "in danger of falling off"
- Patching parts of the roof
More expensive are repairs Maguire Group says are needed within the next two years: almost $6.5 million worth of repairs to cracked brick and masonry in addition to window replacements and other fixes.
Then, within four years, the high school needs another $2.5 million worth of replacements to windows and roofs.
Considering a new school and next steps
In light of those repair costs, it makes sense to "look at all your options based on how old the building is," said Rossetti.
The city is forming a working group to study the engineering report. In addition, the city will conduct a feasibility study that includes various option, including the option of building a new facility, possibly at a different location. Rossetti said such feasibility studies typically take about 9 months to a year to complete.
The feasibility study will "help us assess the relative merits of a new facility as well as look at possible locations and associated costs," Curtatone said in the statement. "In the meantime, we will take every step necessary to ensure that the current building remains a safe and positive learning environment for our students and families."
"We'll continue to do the necessary repairs" to make sure the school is safe, said Rossetti.
Costs of building a new school
The city has been working with the Massachusetts School Building Authority, according to Monday's announcement. The authority would likely be an important source of funding should the city decide to build a new school.
The Massachusetts School Building Authority provided approximately $15.3 million toward the construction of the new East Somerville Community School, which burned down in 2007 and is now projected to be open again in 2013. It also provided $5.8 million in loans for the project when construction bids came back high and the city needed to scramble to find enough financing.
"I think the MSBA understands that our high school is one of only a very few in the state that has not been rebuilt, or at least thoroughly rehabilitated, in the past quarter century," Curtatone said in the statement.
As a point of comparison, the cost of the new East Somerville Community School, which will serve about 600 elementary school students, is projected to be around $39.1 million. Somerville High School had about 1344 students enrolled in 2010-2011.
Maguire Group Inc. is also the engineering firm working on the East Somerville Community School.