Abington: Town moving forward with new school project

Abington will be moving forward to the next and final phase of building a new Grades 5-12 Co-Located Middle/High School. A Pre-Kindergarten School would also be located on the site.

The School Building Committee chose this option instead of the three variations of an addition/renovation project. The Board of Selectmen and The School Committee unanimously approved this decision Monday night.

School Building Committee Chair Richard Testa briefly explained how the process has gone so far. “The MSBA requires that we go through a three-phase process,” he said,” The first phase we looked at 14 possible solutions to the town’s school building needs.”

Three preferred solutions came from the 14 possibilities: constructing a new Middle School, constructing a new Middle/High School, or renovating the existing High School facility.

The MSBA did not feel that a new Middle School would meet the town’s school building needs. Testa said the town currently has a serious overcrowding issue in all the schools. “The construction of a new 5-12 facility allows us to reduce overcrowding at all of the age levels,” he said, “It also allows us to take our two oldest buildings offline and take those out of commission.”

These benefits and MSBA feedback led the School Building Committee to their decision of Option 1.

Building a brand new school had more advantages, including: less costly, less disruption to students and staff, less unknowns, better organization for co-location of the Middle School and the High School, and a shorter timeframe.

Scott Dunlap, Principal Owner of Ai3 Architects, said the new school would take about 30-36 months to build, while the addition/renovation project would take about 42 months to complete.

The  Building Committee will be submitting their “step two” information to the MSBA next week for the anticipated new school building project.

Testa said they will submit the presentation done last night with all supporting documentation, and the votes from the Selectmen and the School Committee. “That will go forward to the MSBA for their review,” he said.

Testa stressed the importance of community input in the next and final step of the project. “It’s critical,” he said, “This is a solution to the school’s building needs that’ll be ongoing for the next 50 years, so it’s critical that we get the community input to ensure that what comes out on the other end meets all of the community’s needs.”

Testa said they will start very preliminary work on the option they chose, but they won’t invest a significant amount of time until they receive final confirmation from the MSBA.

All presentations and information about the School Building Committee and the new school project can be found on their website at www.asbc.us

Selectmen Chair Mike Franey pointed out that residents will have a chance to vote on this issue at Town Meeting, and if approved there it would go to a ballot vote.

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About Samantha Tracey

Samantha Tracey graduated from Salem State University in 2013 with a degree in Journalism. She has been reporting on local issues in a variety of towns: Bridgewater, Abington, Carver, Weymouth, East Bridgewater, Hanson, Halifax, etc. She says growing up on the South Shore has made it interesting now to be covering news in such familiar places.