Photo: The Belmont Middle and High School is now the property of the Belmont School Committee.
“It’s a fairly simple meeting,” Bill Lovallo said of Wednesday’s virtual joint get-together of the Belmont School and Belmont Middle and High School Building committees.
And while it was straightforward, the gathering marked the culmination of seven-and-a-half years of planning, construction, and 163 meetings as the Building Committee turned over the 450,000 sq. ft. 7th to 12th-grade building to the School Committee and the Town of Belmont.
“It’s a meeting about a building, but it’s really so much more than a building,” Meghan Moriarty, chair of the Belmont School Committee. “It’s a really exciting opportunity for us. I’m so excited for our educators and our students.”
“I’m very pleased to say that we’ve come to a milestone here,” said Lovallo.
In a series of three votes, the Building Committee accepted the building from Skanska USA, the project’s chief contractor, before officially transferring ownership of the largest building in Belmont to the School Committee and town.
“This is incredible,” said Lovallo as the $295 million school building opens for the six grades it was designed. “Seven and a half years since we started this project with the building committee, working collaboratively with the school committee … and school department on visioning, working on budgets, working on scope, working on messaging. We’re working on engaging our community time and time again, to do the best thing we can for Belmont with the resources that we have.”
Lovallo issued thanks to Skanska, the architectural design team from Perkins+Will, Owner’s Project Manager CHA Companies, the Belmont School District, and residents who supported the project.
“I’m very proud of what the community has done. I’m very proud of people stepping up, community members providing their input, and comments, the building committee, and others, listening, and then delivering on our commitment. So thank you,” said Lovallo.
One member of the building committee will be a beneficiary every day from the nearly decade long process. Belmont High teacher Jamie Shea called the building “an amazing space.”
Flexible spacing allows innovative teaching
“I’m so thankful that we have that space for teaching and learning for our students. I love my classroom with a moveable wall that allows me to teach an integrated class with a math teacher, which is great. The flexible spacing in the building is allowing teachers to innovate and try new things in ways that were really hard to do in the old building.”
Shea also heralded the work of Lovallo, veteran building committee member Pat Brusch, and recently retired superintendent John Phelan. “This only happened with the three of you. I can’t even imagine the number of hours you spent beyond all the meetings we were at to ensure this happened.”
The town’s Office of Community Development is granting the school committee a temporary occupancy permit (TCO), representing the school building is ready for educators/staff and students to enter the building, said Moriarty. The paperwork to allow the building to open will completed in the next days.
The building committee will identify any remaining work on the “punch” list to be completed, like training for bells, the Public Address system, HVAC, and the solar arrays.
“[Punch list] doesn’t affect life safety account for those types of things, but it does affect 100 percent completeness. So … as we turn the building over, our team will be continuing to work on that,” said Lovallo, “We expect that to take probably about two months from now to get all those items complete.”
One item that will take more time to complete will be the installation of more than 2,200 solar photovoltaic arrays on the building’s roof. Delays due to cost and engineering delays will hold up the final full production mode until February 2024, according to Lovallo.
“I’ll say right here that we have not changed our commitment to flooding the entire roof with – probably is not the best word to use for a roof, but covering the entire roof with PV and that has not changed,” said Lovallo.
Moriarty said the Building Committee would track that work, hold the construction team responsible, and finish up payment and financial issues with the Massachusetts School Building Authority with support from the Town Administrator’s Office. While the project is nearly completed, the Building Committee will continue until the financial closeout is complete, which will take up to 18 months.
A short ribbon-cutting celebration will occur on opening day for Belmont schools, Wednesday, Sept. 6, at 8:30 a.m. outside of the high school lunch area. The district is planning guided tours for families of middle schoolers, just as was done for Phase 1 – high school – of the building completion.
A larger, town-wide celebration will take place in October.