Leave Your Mark On the New High School; Attend The Design Workshop Thurs. Dec. 14

Photo: Design workshop in session.

Belmont residents: Here is your chance to put your stamp on the design of the new Belmont High School when the Belmont High School Building Committee hosts a public Community Design Workshop on Thursday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. in the Belmont High cafeteria at 
221 Concord Ave. An optional facility tour of the school will take place at 6 p.m.

The purpose of the workshop is to allow the public to be heard, be involved and be informed about the project, said Bill Lovallo, chair of the High School Building Committee.

“We will have a great visioning session … on the 14th,” said Lovallo. “This is a real exciting part of the design process, to start looking at what visions, what opportunities and what benefits we can get out of this project.”

Residents will participate in a hands-on, small-group visioning workshop focused on:

  • Key features of major building spaces,
  • Interior spaces to leverage high-quality teaching and learning, and
  • Site planning discussions.

“There will be multiple sessions where we break up into smaller groups to discuss the issues before us and then present it to the entire workshop. The designers will then bring it back to their office to start to understand what the trends are,” said Lovallo.

“The design team wants to hear what people like and dislike, pros and cons,” he said.

To sign up for email updates and to learn more about the Belmont High School Building Project, including project timelines, videos, meeting schedules, presentations, and more, please visit www.belmonthighschoolproject.org. Questions? BHS-BC@belmont-ma.gov

Put Your Two Cents In: New Belmont High On-Line Survey Ends Nov. 30

Photo: Survey illustration.

The Belmont High School Building Project Community Input Survey is online, and the residents behind the proposed development want to hear from you!  Share your opinions on the Belmont High School Building Project by filling out the BHSBC Survey HERE before the end of the month. 

The Belmont High School Building Committee has received surveys from more than 1,200 community members, but we still want to hear from you. Take five minutes to complete the survey before the Nov. 30 deadline.

You can also sign up for email updates and learn more about the project, including timelines, videos, meeting schedules, presentations, and more, at www.belmonthighschoolproject.org

Questions can be sent to: BHS-BC@belmont-ma.gov

Tour Belmont High School At Building Committee’s Engagement Meeting


How long has it been since you’ve been inside Belmont High? Last week? Not since your youngest has gone off to college? How about never?

Saturday morning is your chance to take a facility tour as part of the Belmont High School Building Committee‘s Community Engagement Meeting set for Saturday, Oct. 28, at 10 a.m. at the High School’s auditorium, 221 Concord Ave. The tour of the school will take place at 9 a.m.

The tour will allow residents to see the condition of the nearly 50-year-old building and what a new/renovated school will provide staff, students, and the public.

The agenda for the committee’s first weekend public meeting is:

  • High School Building Project Updates
  • District Alternative Solutions
  • Existing Conditions and Space Summary
  • Traffic Update
  • Exploring Site Options
  • Questions & Comments

The next Community Meeting will be Tuesday, Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. at Belmont High School with optional facility tours starting at 6 p.m.

The committee also has an online Community Input Survey at:


To sign up for email updates and to learn more about the Belmont High School Building Project, including project timelines, videos, meeting schedules, presentations, and more, visit www.belmonthighschoolproject.org. Questions? BHS-BC@belmont-ma.gov 

Questions can be sent to BHS-BC@belmont-ma.gov 

New High School Building Project Seeking Seniors Opinion Friday

Photo: The Belmont High School Building Committee’s logo.

The Belmont High School Building Committee is holding its next community engagement meeting with the town’s senior community in mind at the Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St. on Friday afternoon, Oct. 13 at 1:15 p.m.

The afternoon’s agenda includes:

  • High School Building Project updates
  • District enrollment update and grade configuration discussion,
  • Results of recent Education Visioning workshops,
  • Guiding principles of the project,
  • Conditions and space summary, and
  • Questions and comments,

Online Survey

The Belmont High School Building Committee wants to hear from the residents of Belmont. Our new online survey is available at www.belmonthighschoolproject.org. The committee invites residents to share your ideas, opinions, and thoughts on the Belmont High School Building Project.

Upcoming Community Meetings include:

  • Saturday, Oct. 28 at 10 a.m. at Belmont High School with optional facility tours starting at 9:30 a.m.
  • Tuesday, December 12 at 7 p.m. at Belmont High School with optional facility tours starting at 6:30 p.m.

To sign up for email updates and to learn more about the Belmont High School Building Project, including project timelines, videos, meeting schedules, presentations, and more, visit www.belmonthighschoolproject.org.

Questions on the project can be sent via email to: BHS-BC@belmont-ma.gov.

Learn About Plans For New High School Tuesday, Sept. 19

Photo: The project even has a logo.

It will likely be the largest and most expensive construction project in Belmont’s history. So don’t you want to know more about the new Belmont High School?

Join the Belmont High School Building Committee for a community engagement meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 19, at 7 p.m. in the Chenery Middle School auditorium, 95 Washington St.

The night’s agenda will include:

  • High School Building Project updates
  • Introduction of the Project Design team
  • District Enrollment Update and Grade Configuration discussion
  • Results of Recent Education Visioning workshops
  • Questions and comments

“The Community Meetings will be a great chance for the public to hear and comment about the recent work of the Belmont High School Building Committee,” said Belmont School Superintendent John Phelan.

“This will include meeting the Project Team: Daedalus Projects and Perkins+Will who will be leading this work. The audience will also learn about the enrollment and space challenges of the school, the three grade configurations being considered (7-12, 8-12, 9-12) as well as the ‘visioning’ work of the school system as it relates to the design of the new building,” said Phelan.

Additional community meetings will take place:

  • Friday, Oct. 13 at 1:15 p.m. at the Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St.
  • Saturday, Oct. 28 at 10 a.m. at Belmont High School.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 15 at 7:30 p.m. at Belmont Town Hall
  • Tuesday, Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. at Belmont High School

To sign up for email updates and to learn more about the Belmont High School Building Project, including project timelines, videos, meeting schedules, presentations, and more, please visit its webpage.

Email questions to BHS-BC@belmont-ma.gov

New Belmont High Team – So Far – Introduced to Public

Photo: Thomas Gatzunis (left) and Richard Marks of the Daedalus Projects Company.

More than 100 residents braved the cold rain Thursday night, April 6, to head to the Beech Street Center to get an early look at the progress of the construction/renovation of a new Belmont High School.

And if the albeit limited number of comments were any indication what the public is thinking, it constructs a school which will meet the needs of a growing student population but don’t go overboard.

“Keep on budget,” said John O’Connor from Precinct 5. “It should be a good job well done” but done so responsibly.

“That’s the biggest thing,” he said.

The turnout was a welcomed surprise for Belmont High Building Committee Chair William Lovallo who arranged for the meeting to be held in the evening as opposed to the committee’s typical 7:30 a.m. meeting time.

“It was impressive to see this much interest so early on in the process,” said Lovallo, who is leading his second school building committee having chaired the construction of Wellington Elementary School. Much of the curiousness related to early estimates replacing the nearly 50-year-old structure will require a debt exclusion of between $80 to $200 million depending on how many grades will attend the school.

Thursday’s meeting was the opportunity for the building committee to announce the town’s Owners Project Manager as Lovallo introduced Founder and President Richard Marks and Senior Project Manager Thomas Gatzunis of the Daedalus Projects Company of Boston.

The OPM was hired by the Committee to represent the town during the design and construction phases of the building’s creation.

The town hired a familiar face with Daedalus and Gatzunis. Daedalus was the project manager for the construction of the Chenery Middle School 20 years ago (for $20 million!). For many longer-tenured residents, Gatzunis is remembered as a Belmont town employee for 32 years, rising to become the town’s director of community development.

“Tom has institutional knowledge of Belmont, its approvals process, and its public affairs challenges,” said Lovallo, who said Gatzunis’ presence was a major factor why Daedalus was selected. Daedalus’ Shane Nolan will be the on-site project manager.

Daedalus’ Shane Nolan will be the day-to-day on-site project manager for the High School.

“It is great to be back in Belmont,” Marks told the Belmontonian, who noted the team is currently building a $60 million STEM 6-12 grade school in Boston and managed the construction of the $101 million Franklin High School that opened two years ago and a new co-located middle school/renovated high school in Rockland for $82 million.

Gatzunis said that cost control and keeping the project on a schedule will be two of the most important functions he and Daedalus will provide the town.

“[Clients] get angry with me … because I’m constantly that guy saying, ‘We can’t do it'” whether some aspect of the project is too expensive or they need to keep on a tight deadline.

“It’s part of what I do is to have people angry with me. That’s why you hired me,” said Gatzunis.

The next “big step” said Marks for the Building Committee and Daedalus is the hiring of an architect which will a hired through a collaborative process between the town and the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which is funding up to 40 percent of the eligible cost of the new school.

While the architect will be creating separate designs for the different grade groups being proposed, Belmont School Superintendent John Phelan reiterated to the audience a talk he gave residents, parents, PTOs, and students which the one scenario alleviating the stress of overcrowding in the elementary and middle schools would be the 7th grade through 12th-grade high school.

While there are obvious questions about placing a wide-age range of students on one campus, Phelan said through careful planning; a larger school could prove beneficial educationally.

Phelan is inviting the public to hear from Education Facilitator Frank Locker on May 4 and 5 on just such a scenario. 

Residents were interested in the 7-12 grade option, with Mary Lewis liking how the district is “thinking outside the box” suggesting if the 7-12 grade option is approved the Chenery Middle School should be turned into an elementary school, creating five K-6th grade schools in Belmont, an idea that got a positive reaction.

Phil Thayer of Precinct 6 strongly suggested that the new school have a net zero energy footprints with the use of solar and energy-saving mechanicals.  

Holding his young son’s hand, Han Xu advised that a new school be functional, sacrificing on most architectural features and building fixtures, going so far as suggesting a new five grade school doesn’t need an auditorium.

“I know the trend in education construction is to be up-to-date technically but most kids already have the devices they need,” said Xu, who is a structural engineer who has worked on university buildings. 

“You can buy an Apple but it is quite expensive, or you can buy a Dell which can do all the same [tasks]. That’s how the new school should be built,” said Xu.

Public Forum on New Belmont High Thursday at the Beech 7PM

Photo: Belmont High School

The first Belmont community forum on the Belmont High School Project will be held at the Beech Street Center at 266 Beech St. on Thursday, April 6, starting at 7 p.m.

The agenda for this meeting will begin with a project update presented by the Belmont High School Building Committee followed by an update on the Educational Plan presented by Belmont School Superintendent John Phelan.

These presentations will then be followed by an opportunity for the public to ask questions and provide comments.

How Much? Early Hints on Cost, Reimbursement for New High School

Photo: A new school will be behind this sign within the next decade

So Belmont, are you ready to pay $140 million for a new 9-12 grade High School?

How about $175 million for a structure housing 8-12 grades?

And a whopping $211 million for 7-12 grades?

Now before residents begin forming pitchfork and torch brigades to march on the School Administration building, the proposed price tags are very rough and early estimates which were created by the 16-person Belmont High School Building Committee as part of the committee’s next step in a protracted journey to a new building, according to town and committee officials.

After successfully completing the initial eligability period in November – known as Module 1 – the Building Committee proceeds to Module 2 where they begin forming the school’s project team including a owner’s project manager and a designer.

“Now we’re off and running,” said Building Committee Chair William Lovallo as the project will begin to take shape with the first significant hirings.

But as the committee discovered during the initial module, working in partnership with the MSBA – which will – can be laborious. Hiring a project manager isn’t as simple as placing an ad and waiting for firms to respond. Rather, the MSBA requires a 25 step, five-month long process (Step 16: School Committee evaluates responses and prepares a short list of 3 to 5 firms) to select the person who’ll shepherd the project for what could be close to a decade until completion.

Not that Belmont will find it difficult to secure a big time manager Lovallo said since the district’s project is considered a plum assignment for most firms.

And part of the process is for the committee to come up with a very early idea of the possible cost of the structure when advertising for the manager post.

“The reality is the only reason [for the estimates for the three building types] is we had to put something [in the advertisement],” said Lovallo who put together a chart using the project costs from 13 new and one addition/renovation building projects financed by the MSBA.

Inputting number of students, square-footage of new schools, project budget with additional data, Lovallo came up with $95,053 for each student in the school in 2020. With an estimated enrollment of 1,470 (9-12) to 2,215 (7-12), the cost of the schools being designed will be impressive.

But Lovallo reiterated that “while these numbers are significant [in price], they are just numbers.”

“Until we know the programs, we have no real hard data just estimates,” he said.

While the Building Committee were estimating costs, the MSBA has preliminary results of its own – again early and rough – on the percentage the state would reimburse the town on construction costs.

Under a rate that will apply throughout the feasibility study process, Belmont will see a nearly 37 percent (actually 36.89 percent) of construction costs compensated. The rate was determined using a chart that included factors – such as income and property wealth – and incentives including energy efficiency and maintenance.

Only after the study is complete will the state determine Belmont’s final allowance.

In a rough estimate, the price tag of $140 million for a 9-12 school would be reduced by $52 million with the town paying $88 million.

While the meeting was dominated by charts and numbers, the committee began discussing the need for community outreach in promoting its work and keeping residents informed where in the process the project currently stands. A professional webpage and video presentations were two items that topped the list of public relations needs.

New Belmont High Project Enters Feasibility Stage After State’s OK

Photo: The current high school building.

The Belmont High School renovation project passed its eligibility stage with flying colors on Nov. 9 and will begin the phase that brings the multimillion dollar proposal closer to a bricks and mortar reality.

On Wednesday, the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s board of directors “invited” Belmont and seven other school districts to collaborate with the authority in conducting feasibility studies for a “potential” school construction projects, according to State Treasurer Deb Goldberg, who is also the chair of the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

“These feasibility studies will carefully examine potential solutions to the issues identified at the school facilities and will help us develop the most cost effective plan to address those issues,” said Goldberg.

For Belmont, the state’s acceptance of the preliminary work is a “big deal,” according to the chair of the Belmont High School Building Committee.

“It’s an exciting time for Belmont,” said William Lovallo, who leads the 16 member group which will oversee the building’s construction with the MSBA. “This is the precursor … of our design process,” he said.

During the just completed eligibility stage, “the state looked to the town and school district to understand the framework by which we will move into the feasibility study,” said Lovallo. With the state’s OK this week, Belmont can now move to hire in the new year an owner’s project manager who will work with the committee to write the Request For Proposal (RFP) for hiring a design team.

According to Lovallo, after the team is in place, the feasibility study will be underway looking at three building “scenarios”– a school that includes 7th-12th grades, an 8th-12th building, and a traditional 9th-12th high school – in multiple configurations.

“The MSBA requires us to look at each scenario three ways; ‘as is,’ a renovation project and a new structure” so “there could potentially be nine designs in the study in addition to any other variation,” said Lovallo.

“Then you take all those studies and boil it down through the public process to a preferred option,” he said. Only when the MSBA and the town approves a single building configuration will schematic designs be produced and the building will begin to take shape, said Lovallo.

“We’ll be working even harder in this next phase,” he said, estimating that the feasibility study will be completed early in 2018.

Down to Three: New High School Will Configure for Building with Either Grades 7, 8 or 9-12

Photo: Belmont Superintendent John Phelan. 

The Massachusetts School Building Authority has spoken, and Belmont residents, and educators will select from one of three school configurations which, by sometime next year, will become the design for the renovated Belmont High School.

And the options are:

  • Grades 7-12
  • Grades 8-12
  • Grades 9-12

By March of 2017, residents, educators, and students will be able to comment on the first preliminary designs of a new Belmont High.

The decision from the MSBA was revealed by Belmont School Superintendent John Phelan at the Belmont School Committee held Tuesday night, Sept. 27 at the Chenery Middle School. Phelan will make the same announcement before the Belmont High Building Committee on Thursday morning, Sept 29. 

It is now up to the building committee “to become comfortable with the state’s decision” said Phelan and accept the trio of school configurations – which it is expected to do – moving forward on the $110-$120 million building project.

Since it was selected by the MSBA in January to partner with the state on renovating the 45-year-old school off Concord Avenue, the town, and school district have moved forward on the project, selecting a building committee and working with the state on what could be built at the site and what options should be dropped. 

This summer, Belmont sent the MSBA a wide-ranging list of possible uses in the school. In addition to the traditional 9-12 and 8-12 grades, options included building a separate structure to house the town’s Pre-K and Kindergarten programs in an effort to lessen the overcrowding in the district’s elementary schools.

The MSBA concluded that even if part of a new high school campus additional structure would need to be a separate application for state funding. The state is expected to reimburse the district in the range of a third of the actual building expenses. 

After the Building Committee approves the three options, the state will send the town a revised letter it initially sent in June 2016 – including the state’s estimate on total student enrollment  – which the committee must sign and returned to the MSBA by Nov. 7. 

After some give and take with the district, the MSBA has settled on a school with a “design enrollment” of 1,475 pupils. But Phelan said the actual number of students attending the school is expected to be higher than the state’s number as the high school’s “design capacity” – which is determined by the number of educational programs offered by the school and requires added space requirements – will bump up that figure.

After the revised letter is in the MSBA’s hands, the district will formally enter into the next phase of the building process which is building a design team. The first bids from the building committee will go out seeking a project manager and architects sometime after the first of the year.

“Once the letter is sent to the state, all this becomes a building committee project,” said Phelan, as the district will step back from the process.

Beginning in the spring of the New Year, residents and other parties will be asked to be involved in selecting one of three configurations offered.

The first building schematics by designers will be presented by approximately March 2017 “and give the general public a chance to see a 7-12, 8-12 and 9-12 school would look like in a way that the average community member, teacher, and student would be able to say, ‘Oh, that’s how they would organize that type of school.'”

“And that would allow people to have a better and more informed decision on what configuration they would support,” said Phelan.

The public process for selecting the best arrangement of grades will be done parallel to the committee’s work, to be led by an experienced education facilitator “that can help us bring information from the public to the project manager and the design architects.”