Abington: MSBA sends new school project into final phase

Abington’s New Grades 5-12 Co-Located Middle/High School Project is now in the “Preferred Schematic Design Phase,” after the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) Board of Directors gave their official approval on March 26th.

Owner’s Project Manager Mary Mahoney said that over the next three to four months, the School Building Committee and the professional team will be proceeding with a complete scope and budget for the project.

“It is expected that we would be making a submission to MSBA in early August, which would provide a full schematic design, full construction cost estimate, and a projected total project budget,” Mahoney said.

Mahoney added that following the submission, they would collaborate with MSBA and hopefully get the scope and project approved sometime in September.

The town hopes to bring this issue before the voters at a Town Meeting in the fall.

School Building Committee Chair Richard Testa said they are “very excited” to be in the final phase of the project.

“We have a very large committee that’s put in almost two years of work on this,” Testa said, “It’s very exciting to see it come to fruition and be heading into the home stretch.”

Scott Dunlap and Troy Randall with Ai3 Architects have been refining areas in the site plan and building floor plan to include the best and most modern educational environment for the students.

“Over the next three months, we’ll be continuing to work with the staff and administration to look at every single space in the building and continue to refine those,” Dunlap said.

He added that they will also be going out to the community to gain their input on “every possible amenity that may be required on the site.”

Dunlap and Randall presented four areas in the school they have refined to the School Building Committee Thursday night.

Those areas are: the athletic area and gymnasium, Middle School Project Based Learning Labs, the Library Media Center, and the Co-op/Life Skills Classrooms.

The group had a lot of discussion on the Middle School Project Based Learning Labs.

Superintendent of Schools Peter Schafer pointed out that these learning labs allow students to work together on large interdisciplinary projects in ways they cannot do now.

Randall explained the design and layout of this area. He described it as a “transparent, visible learning environment.”

The learning labs include project bins, flexible space, open-shelf storage, peg boards, and full-sized white boards.

“The Board of Directors at the MSBA, with a lot of research at their disposal, are looking at schools across the country and they understand that that kind of project based learning lab is becoming an inherent part in all of the successful Middle Schools,” Dunlap said.

The Library Media Center, on the other hand,  is the one place in the whole building proposed to have the Middle and High School student populations occupying the same area.

Dunlap pointed out that there are intended separations for the students and constant supervision.

“Just in general, for the Middle School students to have access to the books that are at the HIgh School right now and vice versa,” Testa said,”That in itself is certainly one benefit to having that shared facility.

Dunlap acknowledged that these four areas they talked about specifically  “evoke” a lot of public input and opinion. Testa added that they want to make sure they “get it right.”

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.