Future of New High School Takes Shape Tuesday With Decisions On Configuration, Design

Photo: The bowtie design for the new Belmont High School favored by many.

The future of a proposed new Belmont High School will become more evident today, Tuesday, Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. as both the shape and scope of the building going forward will be decided by members of the school committee and the group overseeing the building project.

Tonight, the School Committee and the Belmont High School Building Committee will come together in a joint meeting at the Wellington Elementary School’s cafeteria to approve what grades will be educated in the school and the design of the building.

The School Committee will first debate and then vote on the project’s grade configuration, selecting from one of three choices: the traditional 9th to 12 grade, an 8th to 12th grade set up, and an expanded school incorporating 7th to 12th grades. 

After that decision is made, the Building Committee will vote on one of four designs comprised of three site strategies: all new construction, major renovation with minor new addition and two approaches that are minor renovation and significant new construction. 

While the two committees facing a wide array of configurations and designs, over the past four months the groups have gravitated towards favorites in shape and scope. After financial analysis from the Belmont School Department demonstrating the traditional 9th to 12th and 8th to 12th schools would not solve the skyrocketing enrollment deficit in Belmont, the group has moved toward supporting a 7th to 12th-grade configuration as it would not require a significant second round of funding to renovate existing schools or requires the building of a new K-4 elementary school.

In going with a 7th to 12th-grade design, the building will rather large at approximately 423,000 sq.-ft, (more than two and a half times the size of the Bradford development in Cushing Square) housing 2,215 students as opposed to a 9th to 12th school at 312,000 sq.-ft. with 1,470 pupils.

As for the future design, both public and building committee feedback has moved towards a major new structure that incorporates the existing Wenner Field House and Higgenbottom Pool as all new construction would require the school to be close to Concord Avenue and residential neighborhoods and require building a new gym and pool without the support of the Massachusetts School Building Authority which is currently putting up nearly 40 percent of acceptable construction cost. A major renovation with new additions abutting Clay Pit Pond would take longer to build and have the highest impact on students as it would require moving pupils from the area.

Of the pair of designs leading the pack, the one known as “the bowtie” (known as “C.2.4”) with extended wings reaching out to the east and west has received the most positive reaction over the other major new construction and minor renovation design which now has a distinctive “L” shape. 

See the four designs and statistics for each here.


Sports: Girls’ Hoops Readies For Long Road Trip With Win Over SpyPonders

Photo: Meghan Tan (with ball) driving to the basket against Arlington as Jane Mahon looks on. (Credit: Pete Giorgio)

In its last home game before an extended stretch away from the Wenner Field House against some of the most competitive teams it’ll face before the playoffs, Belmont High Girls’ Basketball took care of an undermanned but scrappy Arlington High SpyPonders squad, 73-55, on Friday night, Jan. 19. 

Led by junior center Jess Giorgio whose 13 points was her second game in double digit, Belmont spread the scoring around as seven of the eight player who tallied scored eight or more points in the game.

“What’s great about their unselfish play is that we don’t always go to the same girl to score. Everyone contributes which makes it hard of  the other teams to focus on just a few players,” said Belmont’s Head Coach Melissa Hart, whose team is currently 8-1 and 7-0 against Middlesex League opposition. 

Belmont took the lead early through senior co-captain Greta Propp who hit her first three shots to give the Marauders a 6-3 lead and when senior co-captain Jenny Call launched a three, the lead was four, 10-6, midway through the first. The Marauders steadily upped the lead to 28-16 with 3:30 remaining in the second on a Jane Mahon bucket off the give and go from Giorgio. The Marauders finished the quarter with threes from Meghan Tan and Call to end the half leading the SpyPonders, 39-23.

Arlington did claw back through game scoring leader freshman guard Eva Connolly who led all scorers with 19 points (going 8-8 from the free-throw line), and senior guard Ellie Demaree who tallied 18 points. Arlington did reduce the lead to 11, 54-43, just before the end of the third quarter.

But Belmont’s height advantage and good shot selection saw the lead near 20 with eight minutes left in the game.

Senior captains Carly Christofori and Jenny Call each scored 11 points – with Call adding three more three-pointers to her already team career record scoring from beyond the arc. Junior guard Meghan Tan and the Marauders’ third captain Greta Propp threw in nine points while bench players junior Jane Mahon and frosh Maiya Bergdorf knocked in eight apiece. 

Belmont’s stretch of success – recognized with top 10 rankings in both Boston daily newspapers polls – will be tested beginning this week as the team plays four of its next five games on the road against tough league competition.

First up will be 6-2 Melrose on Tuesday, Jan 23 before Belmont makes a brief stop home on Friday, Jan. 26 against a rebuilding Watertown club before playing three games in five days; a Sunday afternoon matinee, Jan. 28, against Lexington then up against the currently undefeated Wakefield (9-0) squad on Tuesday, Jan. 30 then a visit on Friday, Feb. 2 to Woburn (8-1) which took the Marauders to the brink at the Wenner before the team pulled it out late. 

Track Record Holders Named Boosters Athletes For December

Photo: Anoush Krafian.

The Belmont Boosters named its December Athletes of the Month.

The Female athlete for December is Anoush Krafian of the Girls’ Indoor Track Team. This season, senior Krafian has set the school’s record in the 55-meter hurdles in 8.41 seconds and the indoor long jump with a leap of 17-feet, 5-inches.

The Male athlete for December is Calvin Perkins of the Boys’ Indoor Track Team. Also a senior, Perkins established a pair of new records: 35.67 seconds in the 300 meters and a 1 minute 21.42 second 600 meters which was the fastest High School time in the US last month.

Chenery Middle School Talent Show This Wednesday, Jan. 24

Photo: This Wednesday.

The 6th annual Chenery Middle School Talent Show is Wednesday, Jan. 24 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the school’s Auditorium.

The talent show is a wonderful opportunity for Chenery students and staff to share their many talents and be a part of a community-building event. Students get to showcase their passions and develop their confidence and grit as they perform in front of their peers.

Tickets are $10 and directly support the Grade 8 Washington DC Trip Scholarship Fund. Tickets are available for purchase at Moozy’s (corner of Belmont and Trapelo), Champions Sports in Belmont Center, and the night of the show. Students may also purchase tickets directly from Mr. Dyer in room 117. Concessions will be sold during intermission by the Chenery Middle School PTO.

‘Big Number’: New Belmont High School Price Tag Likely Topping $300 Million

Photo: Residents viewing designs for the new Belmont High School, Jan. 16.

It was always assumed a new or renovated Belmont High School would cost a pretty penny for taxpayers.

After Tuesday’s joint public meeting led by the Belmont High School Building Committee, residents now have a clearer idea of the price tag to build a new school will require a whole lot of pennies, as in about 31 billion one-cent coins.

That’s the outcome of the initial financial analysis by Daedalus Project Company’s Tom Gatzunis, the owner’s project manager for the Belmont High School Project, who presented his work to a joint meeting of the Building Committee, the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee as well as a number of residents at the Chenery Middle School on Jan. 16.

“We are giving you a brief snapshot of where we are of the cost of all the different scenarios,” said Gatzunis, pointing out the analysis presented initial cost projections for four designs – two that are minor renovation/major additions, a major renovation/minor addition and all new construction – in three grade configurations; 9th to 12th, 8th to 12th, and 7th to 12th grades.

With the focus of the joint committee on building a 7th to 12th-grade structure – which would not require the town to build a new elementary school if a 9th through 12th scheme is chosen or commit to costly revamping classrooms in an 8th through 12th grade blueprint – the project price tag for a new high school including construction and soft cost would come to approximately $310 million for a 410,000 sq.-ft. multi-story building housing 2,215 students.

Go to the Belmont High School Building Committee webpage to see an updated designs from architect Perkins+Will and financial data from Daedalus.

If approved by Town Meeting and voters through a debt exclusion vote, the new Belmont high school would be one of the most expensive ever built in the US, trailing only two mega schools in Los Angeles. Locally, it would top the current priciest high school in Somerville at $257 million and the proposed new building in Waltham at $283 million and dwarfing the controversial Newton North High School that came in at $197.5 million that opened in 2010.

Belmont will not be on the hook for the entire amount. About 36 percent of the construction cost or $81 million will be absorbed by the Massachusetts School Building Authority which is working closely with the Building Committee on the project. With the reimbursement calculated into the cost, Belmont’s share of the project comes to approximately $231 million.

What the $231 million expense means to taxpayers was explained by Town Treasurer Floyd Carman who said at 4 percent interest over 30 years of level payments, real estate property taxes would increase by $184 per $100,000 of assessed value beginning in 2020, the year construction would start. 

Below is a chart of the yearly real estate tax increase for homes at three assessed values:

  • $500,000 – $920
  • $750,000 – $1,387
  • $1 million (the average residential assessment in Belmont as of fiscal 2018) – $1,840

“The numbers are the numbers,” explained Carman.

There are less expensive options including renovating the existing school with not additions or new construction at $124 million with Belmont picking up $92 million. And a 9-12 school would be in the $180 million range, which does not include the cost of a new elementary school that Belmont Superintendent John Plehan has said would be required to meet the ever-increasing enrollment numbers in Belmont’s school.

Phelan said if any of the 9-12 designs are selected, the town would need to come up with between $72 million to $82.5 million for a new elementary school and renovations at three of the four elementary schools and the Chenery.

Whether it was sticker shock or the outcome of the analysis was expected, committee members and the public did not have any immediate reaction to the big numbers generated by the project. 

“Wow, I thought there would be a lot more questions,” said Building Committee Chair William Lovallo. He noted that the committee will not return to the cost component until mid-summer “when we will have better numbers.” 

The next joint meeting will be Tuesday, Jan. 23 when the School Committee will vote on a grade configuration moving forward while the Building Committee will select a design scheme. 

Historic: Garvin Sworn In As Belmont’s First Female Town Administrator

Photo: Patrice Garvin being sworn in by Town Clerk Ellen Cushman as Belmont first female town administrator.

Town Clerk Ellen Cushman was ready with the official signing in book, two of the three selectmen were in place and the Board of Selectmen’s table was festooned with sweets and pastries.

And a few minutes after 8 a.m., Tuesday, Jan. 16, history was made as Patrice Garvin was sworn in as Belmont’s first permanent female town administrator.

“I’m very excited and I’m looking forward to working with everybody in the town of Belmont. Looking to get going,” said Garvin who received a round of applause after Cushman made her appointment official. The swearing in was Garvin’s second public event in Belmont as she attended the annual Martin Luther King Community Breakfast on Monday, Jan. 15 where she was introduced to many residents. Garvin was offered the job in December after a long search process to find a replacement for David Kale, who returned to Cambridge after four years in Belmont.

Garvin has a three-year contract running through Jan. 15, 2021 with options to extend her employment. Garvin will receive an annual salary of $168,000.

Garvin said that she hoped her first day would not “be too overwhelming” and was looking forward to meeting more of the staff “and have more conversations and dive right in.” She believed her main goal in the next few months – during which the town budget takes center stage – is to meet and discuss with each department head their budgets in detail “and those are the conversations I want to have.” 

As with any out-of-town commuter, the Chelmsford resident found the town’s congested roads and business centers “challenging but indicative of this area.” Before he left, Williams provided Garvin with the location of the “secret” parking space only known to certain selectmen and now her. 

Every little bit of advice helps when you’re new in town.

Town Election ’18: School Committee’s Caputo Eyes William’s Selectman Seat

Photo: Tom Caputo

Nearly a year after securing his first full three-year term on the Belmont School Committee, Tom Caputo is thinking of a higher calling having taken out nomination papers for the Board of Selectmen.

In a conversation with the Belmontonian, Caputo appears ready to start a campaign to wrest away the seat from its incumbent, Jim Williams. 

In his “elevator pitch” for the position, Caputo points to many challenges facing the board in the near future and his skills to find solutions. 

“Simply put, the town has a bunch of critical decisions that we need to make in the coming years, questions about the new high school, major capital projects, traffic and those will all require thoughtful, creative solutions where lots of people with different backgrounds come together to create workable solutions,” he said.

“It all has to be done under which will continue to be a challenging fiscal environment. My time on the school committee, my experience on the [Belmont] High School Building Committee has given me both an understanding of a lot of those key issues and a passion to do more and be a part of trying to solve those problems.”

“I’m excited to continue to contribute to the town and its residents,” he said.

Both Williams and Caputo have yet to return their nomination papers to the Town Clerk’s Office. All town-wide office seekers and town meeting candidates have until Feb. 13 at 5 p.m. In September 2017, Williams said he would not run for re-election but did so including several caveats that would change his decision. 

Caputo was appointed to the School Committee in Nov. 2014 to replace Kevin Cunningham who resigned. At the town election in April 2015, Caputo ran uncontested for the two-years remaining in Cunningham’s term. In April 2017, he won a three-year appointment with 3,014 votes running with Kate Bowen to fill two slots.

For the past year, Caputo has been senior vice president for product at Cambridge-based CarGurus, a publicly-traded online car shopping website founded in 2006 by Langley Steinert, co-founder of TripAdvisor.

Caputo matriculated at Dartmouth then headed to Stanford where he earned an MBA and MS in electrical engineering. He started his career at Microsoft.

A decade-long resident, Caputo lives on Richmond Road with his wife, Sarah, and 11-year-old twin daughters.

Free NARCAN® Training for Belmont Residents This Thursday

Photo: NARCAN nasal spray.

Free NARCAN® Training for Belmont residents will take place on Thursday, Jan. 18 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Belmont Public Library’s Assembly Room. This training is sponsored by the Belmont Substance Use Coalition.

If you, or someone you love, has been prescribed an opioid, such as oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percoset), hydrocodone (Vicodin), or hydromorphone (Dilaudid), or if you know someone who struggles with opioid addiction, come get trained on the use of this life-saving medication.

NARCAN® (naloxone HCl) is a nasal form of naloxone, approved by the FDA for the emergency treatment of a known or suspected opioid overdose – it counteracts the life-threatening effects of the overdose. Since most accidental overdoses occur in a home setting, it was developed for use by first respondents, as well as family, friends, and caregivers.

Space at this free training is limited to 25 people, so reserve your spot now, by sending an email request to: Lisa_Gibalerio@WaysideYouth.org.

il Casale Team Opening New Belmont Center Restaurant in Early Summer

Photo: The de Magistris’ new eatery “The Wellington” will be a similar size to the flagship il Casale restaurant.

Residents will have a new dining option as the Belmont family that runs il Casale will open its newest eatery in the early summer in the building that houses Foodies and the Belmont Book Store.

The “The Wellington” was presented before the Belmont Board of Selectmen last week as the de Magistris family sought a full-alcohol license for the second of the family’s businesses in Belmont Center, following their award-winning restaurant at 50 Leonard St. 

The license was approved unanimously by the board on Jan. 8. 

The family first approached the town in July 2017 when it presented its designs to the Planning Board which took some issue with the parking spaces allocated to the business. The application was approved in September

The new restaurant will be “a little more casual than what you may recall at il Casale, more modern American fare (“hamburgers and oysters,” according to Dante de Magistris), a fresh seasonal menu that will change … and meeting the ever-growing demand foreign and vegetarian options” in the $11 to $16 range for “burger and  and $21 to $31 for entrees. There will also be a brunch menu.  

The location – which will have entries on Leonard Street and adjacent the Claflin Street parking lot – will be open for lunch at 11 a.m. and dinner until 10 p.m. with a bar featuring craft beers and handmade cocktails. There will also be a brunch menu.  

The new eatery will mirror il Casale in size and occupancy, taking up 3,500 sq.-ft. in the first-floor dining area – with 2,000 sq.-ft. in the lower level taken up by office and storage space – will have 133 seats with 21 bar seating with an occupancy of 200, nearly identical to the de Magistris’ flagship operation.

Belmont Boys’ Hockey Hit By Rockets; Girls’ Hockey’s Unhappy New Year

Photo: Belmont’s Alec Moran (6) stopped by Reading’s Matt Coughlin on Saturday’s game.

Boys’ Hockey

After an inspiring 4-3 victory over perennial powerhouse Winchester midweek, Belmont High hockey was anxious to meet another tough Middlesex League opponent in Reading Memorial High which came to the “Skip” for a Saturday afternoon matinee looking up at the Marauders in the league standings.

But the intensity and breaks came from the Rockets bench – which included seven coaches – as Reading handed Belmont its second loss of the season with a 4-1 victory on Jan. 13.

Reading produced the most chances through the game with Belmont goalie Kevin Dacey required to make a series of difficult saves throughout the game while the Marauders offense which has been led by senior winger Steve Rizzuto – who scored his third hattrick of the season against Winchester – was stifled by Reading’s Matt Coughlin in net with 21 saves and a crew of big and mobile defenders.

Reading dictated the game’s pace and direction scoring early through junior forward Mike Tobin (who is a verbal commit in lacrosse to UMass-Amherst) just a minute in. Belmont came close to knotting the game from its top line of Connor Dacey, Will Dominiconi and Rizzuto who kept Coughlin busy.

The Rockets (7-2) doubled its lead even earlier in the second period than the first, after only 45 seconds with Tobin earning the brace from an excellent pass from Jake Emery. With less than five minutes remaining in the second Reading broke through again, with senior Dan Cranitch beating Dacey on a rising wrist shot glove side. 

Belmont’s best chances came down three as the Marauders dominated the remainder of the period but did not have anything to show for it at the end of two. 

An up and down third culminated in an open net by Matt Florenza with 20 seconds left. Belmont did spoil Coughlin’s away shutout as Tim Bailey took a Dennis Crowley pass and beat the goalie just before the buzzer. After some debate, the goal was allowed for the 4-1 final.

Belmont is 5-2-3 entering its Martin Luther King Day match with Catholic Memorial. (Late edit: Belmont earns a hard-earned tie with CM with a goal from, who else, Steve Rizzuto.)

Girls perfect 2017 leads to imperfect 2018 

Belmont High Girls Hockey was on fire in the first part of the season, specifically in 2017 when it rushed off to a 6-0-0 record with a high powered scoring offense, averaging four goals a game, with a bend but not break defense

But when the calendar changed to 2018, what was ablaze was extinguished as the Marauders are 0-4 for ’18. While some of the reason is the top quality match-ups – including meeting the defending state champions and the top-ranked team this season – two defeats came on consecutive Saturdays where Belmont could not hold onto late leads away from home. 

Not that Belmont has lost its scoring touch as the team is averaging three goals per game, but rather it would appear to be an inability to sustain a team confidence it held earlier in games.

Belmont did perform well against both Woburn (’17 state champs) and Winchester (a top 5 team the entire season) losing 4-2 and 5-3. What has been troubling has been the Saturday Night Falls. Against Lexington, the team let go of a two-goal lead in its 4-3 loss. This past Saturday, Belmont arrived at the Burbank Ice Rink to meet a Rocket team that was on its own three-game losing streak. After a first period knotted at one, Belmont scored twice to lead 3-1 at the end of the second period.

But as with its game against the Minutemen, Belmont saw the Rockets dominate the third, scoring four unanswered goals to fall 5-3 and see its record dip to 6-4-0. Belmont will be away from “The Skip” until next month, Feb. 4, when they host Newton South.