Photo: The high school wing of the Belmont Middle and High School is just days away from opening.
First it was years. Then months, followed by weeks. And now the high school wing of the new Belmont Middle and High School is just days away from the opening of the school year on Sept. 9.
This week is when the town is expected to issue a temporary certificate of occupancy (TCO) that officially transfers the ownership of the structure from the Belmont Middle and High School Building Committee to the School Committee. And while many in town have followed the progress of the exterior construction – from putting up steel, installing the bricks and windows and the landscaping – there has only been a few chances to witness what has been going on inside.
Last week, in a pre-tour before the building committee gets its opportunity this week, a small group got a glimpse at what has been developing on the inside.
”Be prepared to be shocked from the last time you were here,” said Building Committee Chair Bill Lovallo as he led the group into the just-about done school.
And Lovallo didn’t disappoint with his announcement; the interior is an exceptional educational space with an eye-catching design (by architectural firm Perkins+Will) that incorporates natural light to support the function of the building.
“It really is beautiful,” said a tour participant.
As recently as six months ago, the wing’s interior was just bare walls and floors, a few rooms filled with a jumble of tools and workers everywhere. And while there is still a fair share of material that still needs to be installed and unpacked, the tour introduced a building that is impressive, modern and waiting for students to start learning in.
“It has been a tremendous transformation,” said Lovallo, noting the work of the Building Committee which has meet for more than 125 meetings to keep the project pretty much on time and within the project budget at this stage of construction.
Many of the classrooms are only waiting for the furniture to be unwrapped, electronics to be plugged in and floors washed. But the paint is dry, the internet is up and running and the air conditioning works, using geothermal technology to pump in the cool air.
Work will continue after the school opens: The spacious theater needs the acoustic wood panels, carpet and chairs installed, the tiles for the Higginbottom pool just came in while the new turf field – dubbed the Rugby Field – is just waiting for a few days without rain so workers can lay down the carpet. All should be done by mid-October while the new locker rooms in the Wenner Field House is just now getting under construction.
And while there is growing excitement for the high school’s opening, the building project is a little more than half finished with the middle school segment just getting underway with the demolition of the original high school. Only in the fall of 2023 with the completion of the 7th-8th grade wing and athletic fields and parking will the “job be done,” said Lovallo.