State OKs $80.6M Grant To Build New 7-12 School; Critical Debt Vote In November

Photo: The design of the new Belmont 7-12 High School.

The future of the new 7-12 High School is now in the hands of Belmont voters.

Last Wednesday, Aug. 29, the Massachusetts School Building Authority approved a $80.6 million grant towards the $295.2 million Belmont High School Building Project, endorsing more than two years of collaboration by the authority, the Belmont High School Building Committee, the Belmont School Department, citizens, town committees and boards, and various town departments, according to the head of the Building Committee.

“We are incredibly pleased that the MSBA has voted to approve funding for the Belmont High School Building Project,” said William Lovallo, Building Committee chair.

The next step in the project process is the all-important town-wide vote on Election Day, Nov. 6, where voters will decide to approve a debt exclusion of $214.6 million to fund the balance of the project, an amount for which Belmont’s taxpayers will be responsible.

If the town votes in favor of the debt exclusion, the project will move forward with the first evidence of construction occurring in the Spring of 2019. The current project timeline is to complete installation and open the 9-12 High School portion of the school in September 2021 and to open the 7-8 grade portion of the school in September 2023.

“We are especially grateful for the support of State Sen. Will Brownsberger and State Rep. Dave Rogers, who attended multiple MSBA board meetings and were strong advocates for the Belmont High School Project. The project has reached this stage thanks to the collective efforts of so many throughout the town, and it is a testament to how invested Belmont’s citizens are in the continued success of our schools,” said Lovallo.

The BHSBC was formed to explore solutions to the Belmont High School building deficits, including an aging infrastructure and space constraints due to overcrowding. In January 2018, after more than 50 public meetings, forums, and workshops, the Belmont School Committee voted for a 7-12 grade configuration for the school. Also, at that time, the BHSBC determined that a school design with a significant addition and minor renovation would most appropriately and effectively address the educational and facility-related needs of Belmont’s students, and would support continued enrollment growth and evolving teaching models, according to a press release from the Building Committee.

Go to for additional information on the Belmont High School Building Project and to view interior and site designs, and to follow the project journey.

New HS Construction Schedule, Exterior Design Update At Tuesday’s Meeting

Photo: Belmont High School design

The Belmont High School Building Committee,
 the School Committee, and the Board of Selectmen is holding a joint meeting to present to the public construction phasing and exterior design update on Tuesday, June 19 at 7 p.m. 
Chenery Middle School Community Room
, 95 Washington St.

The night’s agenda includes:

  • Construction phasing schedule, and site logistics update

  • Exterior design update

  • Questions and comments

The next Community Meeting is Thursday, June 28 at 7 p.m
. at the Chenery Middle School where the agenda will be a project costs update and a schematic design presentation.

Traffic, Site Design Updates On Agenda At New High School Community Meeting May 16

Photo: Traffic on the agenda.

The Belmont High School Building Committee is holding a community meeting discussing Traffic Evaluation and Site Design Update on Wednesday, May 16 at 7 p.m. at the Wellington Elementary School cafeteria, 121 Orchard St.

On the agenda will be

  • Construction Manager Introduction
  • Traffic evaluation and site design updates
  • Exterior design update
  • Questions and comments from residents and the public

Upcoming community meetings include:

  • Thursday, June 7, 7:30 a.m.: Design Update with Summary of Building Security, Zero Net Energy and Technology, Homer Municipal Building, Art Gallery
  • Tuesday, June 19, 7 p.m.: Schematic Design Review with Construction Schedule, Phasing, and Site Logistics, Chenery Middle School community room
  • Thursday, June 28, 7 p.m.: Project Costs Update and Schematic Design Presentation, Chenery Middle School community room

Skanska Named New High School Construction Manager; Completes Project ‘Team’

Photo: Skanska USA named construction manager of the new high school.

A familiar face will construct the new Belmont High School as Skanska USA was selected as the project’s Construction Manager by a subcommittee of the Belmont High School Building Committee on Tuesday, May 8.

Subcommittee Chair Patricia Brusch told the Belmontonian the multinational construction and development company headquartered in Sweden with an office in Boston will be officially on board the project “very quickly. Just a matter of days.” 

Skanska is no stranger to Belmont having managed the construction of the 84,000 square-foot Wellington Elementary School on Orchard Street between 2010 to 2011. 

Besides upfront payments, Skanska will receive a two percent of the total cost of the project as its fee, said Brusch.

Brusch said the three candidate firms – Skanska, Suffolk Construction, and Gilbane Building Co. – interviewed on Monday, May 7, were close in the subcommittee’s evaluation and in the bids submitted. But the subcommittee members ranked Skanska first in each category, said Brusch, who indicated the firm’s positive experience building the Wellington was likely the edge that won it the job.

“Each [firm] said they would do what was asked of them, but we knew that Skanska actually did it,” said Brusch, who recalled one example where the firm shut down operations at the Wellington whenever a funeral or memorial service took place at nearly by St. Joseph’s Church without being asked. 

With Skanska’s selection, the major players to build the estimated $290 million project has now been assembled with Skanska joining Daedalus Projects of Boston as Project Manager and Boston’s Perkins+Will as architect/designer.

Take A Virtual Tour Of New High School Tuesday; Project’s Construction Firm Will Be Picked

Photo: There will be a virtuality reality tour of the new school.

Residents don’t have to wait five years before taking a tour around a new Belmont High School as they are invited to view a virtual reality presentation of the interior of the proposed building housing 7th through 12th grades as the Belmont High School Building Committee holds a joint meeting with the School Committee at the large community room of the Chenery Middle School, 95 Washington St., on Tuesday, May 8 at 7 p.m.

Also on the agenda will be the selection of the firm to be the project’s Construction Manager. Gilbane Building Co., Skanska, and Suffolk Construction are in the running for the nearly $300 million project.

The night will also include a site design update, discussion of traffic and community comments.

The next community meeting is Wednesday, May 16, at 7 p.m. when traffic solutions will be discussed. The meeting takes place at the Wellington Elementary School cafeteria.

‘Be Heard’: Update, Workshop On Design For New High School Thursday, April 26

Photo: Design update and workshop on the new Belmont High School.

The Belmont High School Building Committee wants residents to “Be Heard, Be Involved, Be Informed” as it holds a Design Update and Design Workshop concerning the proposed new Belmont High School this Thursday, April 26 at 7 p.m. at the Wellington Elementary School cafeteria, 121 Orchard St.

The night’s agenda will include:

  • Project Design Updates
  • Design Workshop – South Plaza
  • Questions and comments

Upcoming Community Meetings include:

  • Tuesday, May 8 at 7 p.m.: Design Update with Virtual Reality Presentation, a joint School Committee & High School Building Committee Meeting at the Chenery Middle School Community Room.
  • Wednesday, May 16 at 7 p.m. Traffic Solutions Discussion at the Wellington Elementary School cafeteria

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 If you have them to

Residents Invited to New High School Presentation, Design Update, Thursday, March 22

Photo: The general outline of the new Belmont High School.

Just because the general design concept and class configuration have been decided, residents ideas and comments are still needed as the new Belmont High School starts to take shape.

The public is invited to join the Belmont High School Building Committee for an Education Vision Presentation and Project Design update on Thursday, March 22 at 7 p.m. at the Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St.

Thursday’s agenda includes:

  • a summary of School and Community Visioning Workshops.
  • Presentation on Belmont’s Vision of 21st Century Learning and Teaching Project Design updates.
  • Questions and comments.

Upcoming community meetings include:

  • Thursday, April 26, 7 p.m.: Project Design Update & Design Workshop, Wellington Elementary School Cafeteria
  • Tuesday, May 8, 7 p.m.: Design Update with Virtual Reality Presentation, a joint School Committee and High School Building Committee Meeting at the Chenery Middle School Community Room.
  • Wednesday, May 16, 7 p.m.: Traffic Solutions Discussion in the Wellington Elementary School cafeteria.

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 Questions? Email quires to 

New Belmont High School Debt Vote Set For Nov. 6 After Meeting OKs Design, 7-12 School

Photo: Belmont High School Building Committee Chair William Lovallo.

The future of a new Belmont High School will be decided on Tuesday, Nov. 6 when residents vote whether to authorize a debt exclusion for more than $200 million for a new high school, according to the head of the committee shepherding the project from concept to completion. 

“We are looking at the November general election, definitely,” said Belmont High School Building Committee Chair William Lovallo, who made the announcement after the Belmont High School project crossed a significant milestone when the Belmont School Committee unanimously approved the recommendation of School Superintendent John Plehan to house 7th through 12th grades in the new school.

The School Committee’s action took place before members of the Belmont High School Building Committee, the Board of Selectmen, the design and project management teams and 85 residents who crammed into the Wellington Elementary School’s cafeteria on Tuesday, Jan. 23.

With Belmont’s student enrollment continuing to skyrocket – it is expected to increase district-wide by 375 students between now and the 2024-2025 school year – Phelan said the only grade option that will allow the school district to meet its educational vision while being financially viable while adding space required to house the K-12 pupil population is to create a 7th to 12th grade high school.

The presentation, which included data Phelan has shown to the committee and the public for the past year highlighted the disadvantages the district would face by selecting another configuration. For instance, a 9-12 high school would require the town to finance and build a new elementary school and expensive renovations in an 8-12 school. 

“This is a really exciting time, it’s also a very anxious time to change your configuration,” said Phelan as the high school transforms from a 9-12 traditional model into essentially two sections: a lower high school for grades 7 to 9 and an upper school for 10-12. 

“But as long as we do a good job within our schools, the rest will take care of itself,” said Phelan. 

Immediately after the vote, the building committee selected the “bow tie” design scheme (known as C.4.2) from four approaches that survived a year-long process. See all of the designs here

While the building committee selected its “favorite” style, the design phase is at its beginning stage, according to representatives from the architectural firm commissioned to create the new school.

“We are not by any means done at this point. We will continue our work together,” said Brooke Trivas, principal and project lead at the firm Perkins+Will, a notion reiterated by Owner’s Project Manager Thomas Gatzunis.

With grade configuration and design in hand, the project – easily the largest construction project in Belmont’s 159-year history – will quickly gather steam in the creation of a schematic diagram as well as a clearer picture of how much it will cost. Last week, an initial rough estimate of the same design approved by the building committee came in at approximately $310 million.

According to Lovallo, the debt exclusion vote will be one of two watershed events the project will face this year. The second is the production of “a large document” known as the Project Funding Agreement. The PFA is the primary contract the MSBA enters into with districts whose school projects have been approved to receive reimbursement grants. 

The PFA also governs the relationship between the district and the MSBA during the school building process from design through construction and completion of the project and will determine how much the Massachusetts School Building Committee will reimburse the town in construction costs.

“Our work will be intense until July as we will produce the PFA for the MSBA and that will bind us with the state sometime in August,” said Lovallo, who said an independent group of residents would work gathering support for the debt exclusion.

Tuesday’s meeting was mainly a reiteration of the information and data gathered and formulated from a year of public meetings and other forums. Lovallo began the session with a detailed, step-by-step retelling of how the cost of the project was determined, the amount that will be reimbursed by the state, and how the project will impact residential taxes.

One week before, the committee announced the initial rough estimate for a new high school – mostly new construction with minor renovation – would cost approximately $310 million with Belmont residents picking up $231 million after the state’s reimbursement. 

Lovallo stressed was it was “not a wise choice” to make direct cost comparisons between Belmont and other high school projects as factors as diverse as enrollment, the sum of the renovations, removing hazardous material and abatement expenses and how much it would cost to phase the building onto the site while students are being taught there.

In addition, the project cost during the feasibility study stage is more an educated estimate than firm figures, calculated using a formula incorporating the building’s total square footage and not the actual cost of installed building’s mechanical systems (HVAC operations, for example) or the complexity of constructing science labs and other types of construction spaces.

With the new 7-12 school topping 422,700 sq.-ft., “[the high school] will have a large project cost,” said Lovallo. But a big price tag does not mean the building is riddled with extravagances. “I can say to those that question if we are building an opulent building, the answer is no.”

“The Building Committee continues to focus on cost-effective solutions to remain fiscally responsible and not just in capital costs but also in operating costs,” he said.

Lovallo said the “Belmont” cost for the building would be impacted by how much the Mass School Building Authority will provide for reimbursement. Currently, the state is looking to chip in 36.89 percent of “eligible” costs, a significant portion which is made up of a cap on construction costs of $326 per square foot, anything above that amount is Belmont’s to pay. There are opportunities for the reimbursement rate to increase with incentive points up for demonstrating, for instance, a high efficiency designed building, retaining a portion of the existing school and showing good capital maintenance practices.

Lovallo concluded saying the estimated $310 million cost is “within about 5 to 10 percent accuracy” of the final price tag so a 10 percent reduction in the cost of the new school would see the last price tag fall to approximately $280 million with Belmont’s bill knocked down to the low $200 million. 

“I am optimistic that … we will find ways to reduce the project cost from the numbers we have been discussing,” he said.

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.


‘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.