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New Campus Location Among Options to be Considered by High School Task Force

The task force will look at short-term and long-term needs of the aging high school building.

Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone has established a new task force to evaluate the condition of Somerville's aging high school and make recommendations about its long-term future, including the possibility of building a new school at a different site.

According to Jackie Rossetti, a spokesperson for the city, the task force will first meet sometime after the new year. She didn't know how long it would take the task force to make recommendations, but suspected it would be sometime in the upcoming year.

The task force will consider immediate needs to the high school's building and facilities, and also long-term needs.

Rossetti stressed the high school is structurally sound and safe for students, but the building is also old and crumbling. A study conducted by the Maguire Group, released in January, determined the school needed about $9.5 worth of repairs within four years—$500,000 of which needed to be conducted as soon as possible.

Problems included exterior brick that was shearing off, cracked window sills, window problems and roof problems, among other things. When the high school went through its accreditation process in 2010, the New England Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges  also pointed out deterioration to the school building, Rossetti said.

This fall, Hurricane Sandy caused further damage to the roof.

According to the Maguire Group's report, the central part of the high school was built in 1895, the area with the library dates back to 1929, and the new gymnasium and Somerville Technical High School wing of the school was built in 1986. There haven't been significant updates to the school since then.

While evaluating the school's condition, the task force will consider needed repairs and examine the possibility of building a new high school elsewhere.

In terms of possible new locations, there aren't any specific options and everything is on the table, Rossetti said.

Members of the task force will include Tony Ciccariello, former headmaster of the school; Tom Bent of Bent Electric; Howard Horton, president of the New England College of Business and Finance; Paul Bockelman, chair of the Somerville School Committee; Alderman At-Large John Connolly; Skip Bandini, capital projects manager for Somerville; Rob King, the city engineer; Omar Boukili, aide to the mayor; and Judith Felix and Donna Haynes, community members.

Matt C November 28, 2012 at 01:58 PM
It would be interesting to see how the changing demographics in the city are affecting enrollment. I hope that we are taking that into consideration in making the decision to build or rebuild.
Somerville Home Owner November 28, 2012 at 04:14 PM
We should repair the old one. It's a waste of a historic building and precious land real estate to build a new school. Is it even cheaper to build a new one?? If a new one is built, what will become of the old building? Another abandoned school in Somerville??
AHM November 28, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Repair, in these tight fiscal times it would not seem reasonable to do so otherwise. Use the extra money towards teachers and whatever else is needed to run the school system. We have to learn to get by, tough times are ahead of us and we need to take great care in not making any more debt. This state is already the highest in the nation for debt as it is.
Ivan November 28, 2012 at 08:24 PM
The city is $97.4 million in the hole. Anyone who knows bond ratings will tell you that aa2 is not good. Joe wants to be remembered as supermayor regardless of the cost. Face the facts Joe. Mike is not getting John Kerry or Liz Warren's job in this lifetime therefore you will never be a rep. You will be in office long enough to account for spending like a drunken sailor.
Stephen J. Cronin November 28, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Let's make the best investment we can, enhancing our home values and every square foot of commerical space in our City by building a first-class 21st century high school for 1,200 students. Not to mention, what this will say about us and our committment to our young people, now and for generations to come, as well as our support for their families. The site is located between Holland St. and Broadway. It is at the crossroads of every major bus route that crosses the city and blocks from the Red Line. Also, the physical proximity to a major university may have benefits.
Somerville Home Owner November 28, 2012 at 10:19 PM
Stephen: Are you saying that the new location has been chosen already? And it's the old powderhouse school? When/how/why was it decided to abandon the old school? And how does building a new school show commitment to our young people? Improving the curriculum and the school's reputation is showing commitment.
Jason November 29, 2012 at 02:25 AM
I tell one thing, if the high school stays as is, structure, infrastructure and administration, we are outta here. If the school system was any good I'd stay and have my kids attend class in a FEMA trailer. Heck a van. But as of rite now, take this system and burn it to the ground and start over. You can quote me.
melissa s. November 30, 2012 at 02:05 AM
Jason, did you even go to school? The spelling mistakes...
Jason November 30, 2012 at 02:27 AM
Brown school class of 1981.
Brian McCarthy December 01, 2012 at 07:34 PM
I think the current location is the best, but what would you do with the kids while you tore it down and built another one. I assume it would take at least one full school year.
Paula Woolley December 01, 2012 at 09:26 PM
I'm a member of the SHS School Improvement Council and asked city planners about plans for the high school at the Somerville by Design sessions this week, after hearing rumors that the current location of the DPW was being considered for a new high school. I was concerned because I've been on the School Council for 2 years and we were never consulted. I was told that the rumors are only rumors, and that no plans have been made yet. Due to storm damage, the SHS auditorium and the kitchen below it have been closed, possibly for the school year. The auditorium is used for city-wide events such as the All-City String concerts (and Senator Kerry held his townhall meeting on healthcare there) as well as for high school events such as the popular musical, Class Day activities, and assemblies. I believe it's the only school auditorium we have in the city at the moment. I think the sooner the roof, the auditorium, and the kitchen are repaired, the better, for our current students and our community. If the current building is renovated, SHS could temporarily use the Cummings School, which is just down the street, and it's possible that part of the building could remain in use during renovations, as was the case in Cambridge's high school renovation.
Paul Elrod December 02, 2012 at 06:48 PM
I heard that the new Somerville Public Library is to be in Union Square on the site of what is now Ricky's Flower Market. RFM's low-lying site in a time of rising water levels makes that site a poor choice. Also, to put the main library branch several miles away from the proposed high school site near Powderhouse Sq is another bad idea. (And finally, moving the library from its current site near large retirement habitations is inadvisable.) I'd like to see the high school & the library improved but kept on the Highland Ave. ridge, where they stand in solid line with the YMCA, City Hall, and large apartment complexes of retired people. The high school and the library already have perfect locations -- their structures should be improved, not abandoned.

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