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Fast times for Wellesley High School project

Posted by Ralph Ranalli March 17, 2008 10:27 AM

Planning has shifted into high gear for a new incarnation for Wellesley's 70-year-old high school building.

Selectwoman Katherine L. Babson has announced that the town's School Building Committee, which has been charged with recommending whether to build a new high school or expand and renovate the existing one, has adopted an "aggressive schedule" for the project. The new schedule could even have residents voting in December on a debt exclusion to fund the project, officials said.

Last week, more than 60 people turned out for the committee's first "Moving Forward" forum, one of several it will hold to present to the public details of the final three basic schematic designs it is considering for recommendation to the annual town meeting later this month.

At the forum, the architectural planning firm of Symmes Maini & McKee Associates presented details on three design options the Committee is now considering. Two of the options are for all new construction; one is for renovation and expansion of the existing building.

The renovation-addition option, dubbed "The Forum," retains certain architectural elements of the existing building, such as the distinctive tower, and connects the existing building with the new addition by situating a gathering place between them. It would an estimated five years to complete.

The new construction options, which would take between three and four years each to build, have been named "The Hub" and "The Courtyard." The Hub has wings that meeting in the middle, like the spokes of a wheel. The Courtyard is centered around an outdoor courtyard. Details of all three plans can be viewed on the town's website.

Babson said the committee hopes to narrow the choices to one design by as early as next month, and to get approval from the state School Building Authority for state assistance on the project this September. If all goes according to scheduled, the Committee could have the final proposal in front of town meeting for approval this October and a debt exclusion vote on Dec. 9.

The Committee presentation did not include updated estimates on how much any of the three options might cost, but some preliminary estimates provided by the Committee have put the cost at between $136 million and $152 million.

The final forum will take place Tuesday, March 25, at 9:30 a.m. in the Wakelin Room of the Wellesley Free Library. The Committee is also airing a video tour of the existing high school building on Channel 9, the local Wellesley cable channel. Air times for the 30-minute video are Mondays at noon, Tuesdays at 3:30 p.m., and Wednesdays at 9 p.m.

-- Lisa Keen

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