Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Updated October 8, 2020


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 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. What options have been studied?

     Ten design alternatives were discussed and evaluated over the course of nine (9) SSBC meetings and two      (2) community forums. The committee focused on the following criteria when developing the options:             educational benefits, cost, minimal disruption during construction, sustainability, community use and             traffic. The ten design alternatives explored were:

     • Option 1 – Code Repair Only
     • Option 2 – Renovation Only
     • Option 3A1 – Renovation with Addition
     • Option 3A2 – Renovation with Addition
     • Option 3B – Renovation with Addition
     • Option 4A1 – New Construction
     • Option 4A2 – New Construction
     • Option 4A3 – New Construction
     • Option 4B – New Construction
     • Option 4C – New Construction

The SSBC, on September 28, 2020 narrowed the options down to five options, with the final selection scheduled to be made the end of December 2020.

    • Option 3A2 – Renovation with Addition
      This option renovates the existing gymnasium only and constructs a new addition to the north of the              existing building housing all other school functions, including auditorium, cafeteria, classrooms and                administration offices.

These five options are:

    • Option 1 – Code Repair Only
      This option only repairs the existing building to meet current building codes. There are no changes to the        building for educational improvements.

    • Option 2 – Renovation Only
      This option renovates the existing building, including renovations for educational improvements. There          are no building additions included. Temporary classroom modulars are required during construction                for swing space.

    • Option 3A2 – Renovation with Addition
      This option renovates the existing gymnasium only and constructs a new addition to the north of the              existing building housing all other school functions, including auditorium, cafeteria, classrooms and                administration offices.

    • Option 4A3 – New Construction
 
     All new two-story construction located to the north of the existing building.

    • Option 4B – New Construction
      All new two-story construction located to the north and east of the existing building.


5. What will the options cost?

The estimated Total Project Cost and approximate cost to Stoneham, after MSBA reimbursement, for each option is as follows:   Total Project Cost and Approximate Cost to Stoneham Table


6.  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.

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 has hosted two community listening sessions or forums so far in the Feasibility Study process and is planning to host many more. 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. How was the 695 student Design Enrollment determined?

The Feasibility Study commenced over 7 years ago with the submission of the initial Statement of Interest for the Stoneham High School to the MSBA. 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 is a 270-day period during which the Town is required to complete certain preliminary requirements. One of these requirements is to agree on the amount of students a revitalized Stoneham High School is to be designed to house.

The process entailed Stoneham providing enrollment, housing, and development information to the MSBA. The MSBA then develops 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 is to be designed to house 695 grades 9-12 students.

9. 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.


10. 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.

11. 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.

12. When will the school construction be completed?

The building construction for the renovation with addition option and the new construction options is estimated to be completed for the school year 2024, with the existing building demolition and sitework following thereafter. The repair only and renovation only options are estimated to take a year longer due to swing space requirements. The construction schedules will be further refined as the Feasibility Study progresses.

13. 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%.

14. 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.

15. 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.

16. 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 2 ½.

17. 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.

18. 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.

19. Will traffic be affected?
The design of all options includes mitigation measures to improve the traffic along Franklin Street, especially during morning school arrivals. The roadways and parking in each design option have 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 and Franklin Street intersection, synchronized with the new signal at the school entrance to improve traffic circulation.

20. How can I keep informed of the high school project?

You can visit https://www.stoneham-ma.gov/hsbc, which provides a complete list of Committee members, contact information and all published documentation.