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Architects offer high school plans

Posted by Tom Coakley  August 13, 2009 12:09 AM

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Armed with PowerPoint presentations, sleek posters and a 3-D animated video, three architecture firms presented their design proposals and visions for Natick’s new high school at a public meeting last evening.

Each firm gave a 30-minute presentation in the Wilson Middle School auditorium with 20 additional minutes to answer questions from the School Committee. The Committee will meet on Monday to vote and select one of the designs.

The new school, expected to cost between $80 million and $90 million, will be built under the Massachusetts School Building Authority's Model Schools program. The program uses designs from recently built schools as starting points for new construction projects.

The authority, which provides state reimbursement for school projects, encourages districts to use the program which lowers cost by employing already proven designs. It also condenses the construction timeline, which saves money on contractor fees and inflation-related cost spikes for materials. Natick could gain an extra $4.5 million in reimbursement under the program

Ai3, one of the firms, designed the new Whitman-Hanson Regional High School; Mt. Vernon Group Architects did Ashland High School and Symmes Maini & McKee Associates, Hudson High School.

Although the designs were based on schools that already exist, each firm offered ideas to customize the design to fit the Natick aesthetic and the community’s needs.

Each firm also said that they would work with the School Committee to ensure that their designs would stay within budget and the time frame for construction.

Frank Todesco, president of Mount Vernon Group, said using a model school is an efficient method, but stressed that the school would have customized elements.

“You get the flexibility to build in your own components and work with our educational planner to come up with your own solutions,” Todesco said.

The Mount Vernon plan is a sustainable design that offers separation on the campus between students and visitors and among buses, parent drop-off, and parking. It also allows for flexible use of space and provides 405 new academic areas.

Joel G. Seeley of Symmes Maini & McKee Associates said that their model has already been implemented in another school and has been nationally recognized by educators.

“We’re fully committed and dedicated to sustainable design initiatives and practices,” Seeley said. His firm’s Natick design placed the library and media center at the center of the school, with windows in the front and facing Dug Pond in back.

Ai3 partner Scott Dunlap said that the Whitman-Hanson Regional High School is the most toured model school facility in the country.

The model school is not just about convenience, but “about buying a design team that will reach out to the entire community and make sure that this building is ultimately the best building for Natick,” Dunlap

Dunlap said his firm would work with the community to create a sustainable design that meets the community’s needs and creates an environment that has a positive impact on learning.

Public comment was not allowed at the meeting, however School Committee Chairman Dirk Coburn said that people can submit feedback in writing to

The school project will require a tax increase that officials expect to bring before the voters in the spring.

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1 comments so far...
  1. Does anyone know if the high-school over-ride is tied to the senior center over-ride or are they two different items?

    Posted by Natickite August 16, 09 09:19 PM