Belmont School Committee Formally Accepts Town’s Newest School Building

Photo: The newest school building in Belmont.

After nearly 27 months of construction, tons of steel, concrete, wires and piping, and a lot of money, the (nearly) completed high school wing of the new Belmont Middle and High School is now in the hands of the Belmont School Committee after the town issued the committee a temporary certificate of occupancy on Aug. 31.

”Belmont has much to be proud of,” read the letter accompanying the certificate to the school district. (See the letter below)

“The building project has been in the ownership of Skanska construction and the building committee since it started digging into the ground several years ago,” Belmont Superintendent John Phelan told the School Committee on Tuesday, Sept. 7, two days before the opening day of the 2021-22 school year as well as the first day the high school section will be open to students.

The committee voted unanimously to formally accept the TCO.

Phelan noted that several town departments including Police, Fire, and Health had to sign off on the certificate to allow the ownership transfer to the School Committee. It will remain a temporary certificate until the 7th and 8th grade middle school wing is completed in Sept. 2023 and the permanent certificate will be issued. The now former high school building, opened in 1970, is being demolished.

As of August, 2021, 54 percent of the construction has been completed with $166.5 million spent out of the $295.2 allocated to the project.

‘Prepared To Be Shocked’: Take A First Peek At Belmont’s New School [Video]

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.

Pair Of Public Meetings This Week: Belmont Middle/High Building Committee And American Rescue Act

Photo: Two public forums will be held this week

The Select Board will be joining several committees and groups for two virtual joint public meetings that will effect the lives of every resident in Belmont.

On Tuesday, Aug. 17 at 7 p.m., the Select Board will be joined by the Belmont Middle and High School Building Committee and the School Committee to discuss aspects of the construction of the $295 million 7-12 school that has been in the news. One area that will be brought up will be design and construction concerns at Concord Avenue and Goden Street, the new traffic lights at the intersection, site design review as well as public comments on the evaluation of construction impacts to neighboring properties.

The Transportation Advisory Committee and the High School Traffic Working Group have also been invited to join the meeting.

The meeting will be conducted Via Zoom Meeting. By computer or smartphone, go to: and follow on-screen instructions.

On Wednesday, Aug. 18, the public is invited to join the Select Board’s joint meeting with the School, Warrant Committee, and Capital Budget Committee also at 7 p.m. via Zoom to discussing the how the town will distribute the approximately $7.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding the town received earlier in the year.

By computer or smartphone, go to:

Both meetings can be seen live at the Belmont Media Center:
Channel 8 on Comcast
Channel 28 or 2130 on Verizon
Or watch online at

If you have any questions, please reach out to the Town Administrator’s Office at or call 617-993-2610

Get Ready For Friday’s HS Furniture ‘Give Away’ By Knowing The Rules Of The Road

Photo: It’s yours, that’s if you can carry it home.

On Friday, July 2, from 9 a.m. to noon, Belmont residents will have the opportunity to come to the Belmont High School building and take furniture that cannot be used in the new high school wing or other school or town buildings.

Over the past year, the Belmont School Administration and the Belmont Middle and High School Building Committee conducted a thorough inventory of furniture and equipment to determine what could be used in the new building and what needed to be replaced. All of these items, as well as teaching and administrative materials, will be moved to the Skip Viglorolo (The ‘Skip’) skating rink for storage during the summer while construction on the new high school wing is completed.

Next, other schools and town departments will have an opportunity to go through the high school building to identify surplus furniture that can be repurposed to meet their needs. Other school districts will also have an opportunity to tour the building and take fixtures, like lockers, that they need for their schools. (Actually, this is how Belmont acquired lockers as our student population grew.)

Finally, on Friday, July 2, just before the site is turned over to the contractor to be demolished to prepare the site for the 7-8 grade Middle School building, any remaining surplus furniture will be made available to Belmont residents. 

Surplus items, after the redistribution to other departments, could include:

  • student desks and chairs,
  • file cabinets,
  • round and rectangular tables,
  • office chairs, and
  • display cases.

So here are the rules of the road for this Friday!

  • All surplus furniture is free; no money is required or will be accepted.
  • Surplus furniture will be distributed on a “first come, first served” basis; items cannot be held for pick-up at a later time or date.
  • Participants are responsible for carrying items out of the building; movers will NOT be on site to assist.
  • This opportunity is only available on Friday, July 2; the district cannot accommodate alternative days or times.
  • During this event, building access will be restricted; available surplus furniture will be displayed in several first floor spaces; these days are not to be used for a final nostalgic tour of the building.

While Middle And High School (Nearly) On Budget, COVID Looms Over Project


At its 99th meeting since it first met in 2016, the Belmont Middle and High School Building Committee on Wednesday, May 13 inched closer to realizing a milestone in the construction of the 451,575 sq.-ft. project as it closes in on finalizing the project’s Guaranteed Maximum Price.

With all the actual bids received by the general contractor, Skanska, and through the oversight of the project by the board (which included a series of value engineering exercises earlier in the process by the building committee to balance the preliminary budgets) the project is at the point where the committee can compare this actual cost of the project against the initial estimated price tag.

The final price of the project is comprised of the bids received, the amount of contingency used, and agreed upon general conditions/fee. Under the GMP, Skanska is compensated for all actual costs incurred from the first day of construction – actually some costs before then – onward.

Going forward, Skanska is responsible for all cost overruns, unless the GMP is increased via formal “change orders” that alters the scope of the project. To reduce their risk and cover any unforeseen costs, Skanska has a contingency fee built into the budget.

And the GMP is darn close to the original price tag for the project. Initially pegged at $238,619,850 – this figure has been revised slightly upwards with allowed transfers of preconstruction costs – after all the steel, cement, rebar wire and thousands of other material and services have been cited and reviewed, the project’s GMP has come in at $240,041,815.

And while the discrepancy results in an overage of $1,421,335, Building Committee Chair William Lovallo told the committee having the GMP coming within a half of a percent of the original estimate on a project this large was commendable.

“I think we did a darn good job,” he said, although admitting $1.4 million “is still a big number.”

Three options facing the committee

While the committee member will be digesting the facts and figures over the weekend – a final approval will come at Wednesday’s May 20 virtual meeting – Lovallo said the once the committee OKs the $240.0 million GMP, it has three options to reconcile the deficit:

  • Approve the GMP and resolve the deficit using the contractor’s contingency fund, currently at $16 million.
  • Ask Skanska to find a way to come up with $1.4 million in cost savings, and
  • Enter into a third round of value engineering that requires reopening the expenses column and cutting items that are ready to be added to the building.

While there was some give and take among building committee members on what could be crossed out at this late time – the most focus was on the artificial turf “rugby” field at $700,000, it became apparent that most members were not amiable to revisiting the process.

“We have gone painstakingly through the [value engineering] process and … determined what we placed high value on and made decisions about it,” said Steve Dorrance, the town’s director of facilities, who asked that a straw poll on members preference be taken. It soon became evident the committee members clearly favored using the contingency account and be done with it.

Lovallo told the members they “shouldn’t beat itself up” if it decided to go the contingency route as the contractor and committee have been frugal using the account.

But despite the silver lining around the GMP process, the dark cloud of the coronavirus pandemic has the potential of floating over the project. While the project still has a “substantial amount of money left” in its contingency funds – totaling roughly $18.5 million if you include the owners account and other smaller line items – Lovallo said that money could be seen as quite small if COVID-19 makes a substantial return in the fall or winter.

In a worse case scenario of a major resurgence that forces the closure of the building site or reduce the number of workers on the site to 25 would likely result in millions in incremental costs to the project. Lovallo said that similar sized projects in the Boston area have experienced losses in “seven figures.”

At that point, Belmont would have to really reconsider the project. I don’t see how [the town] would want to be supporting 10s of millions of dollars in COVID costs. It just doesn’t make any sense,” said Lovallo.

“There’s a big discussion we have to have and understand what the options ared of maybe shutting a job down and starting up when work can be a lot more efficient than just pumping millions of dollars into it … just to keep it going.”

‘Virtual’ Topping Off At Middle/High School Project Set For Late April

Photo: Pouring cement onto the second floor of Area B.

Over the course of the past month, the coronavirus has forced many familiar activities to become virtual events via the internet including working from home, attending town meetings and school.

Now you can add to that list the traditional construction milestone of “topping off” the new Middle and High School project at Belmont High School set for the final week in April “or the first week in May, at the latest,” according to Mike Morrison, project manager for Skanska USA, as he spoke to the Middle and High School Building Committee on Thursday, April 9.

In pre-pandemic times, members of the construction team, the building committee overseeing the development and town officials would come together to celebrate the final steel beam being hoist into place. Everyone would sign their name to the beam while a small pine tree and Old Glory would be attached to the beam, reminiscent of an old fashion, barn-raising.

So keeping with the new realities, the topping off of the high school section and administration wings of the $295 million project will be done remotely, broadcasted to the community via the internet and on local cable.

But for those who will miss the hoopla, Belmont Superintendent John Phelan pointed out there will be a second topping off, this one for the project’s Middle School section in two to three years down the road.

Morrison took the time to revealed an extensive social distancing plan currently underway at the site due to the ongoing pandemic. Belmont continues to allow the building trades to work on the job where Boston and Cambridge have halted all construction activity due to the novel coronavirus.

“The thing that is on the front of everybody’s mind is COVID-19 and Skanska has taken to heart everything that has come through the CDC, the World Health [Organization] but also from [Gov. Charlie Baker’s] health and safety guidelines,” said Morrison.

In pursuit of keeping its subcontractors healthy, the firm has custom-built foot-controlled handwashing stations with hot and cold water that are more than six feet apart “where they can really clean up” when they arrive, before and after breaks and at the end of the day, said Morrison.

“We’re emphasizing and stressing the physical distancing. … which is still a difficult thing to adapt to” for many longtime construction workers, said Morrison. Skanska has filled the site with signs on keeping a safe distance and proper cleaning as well as instituting a 7 a.m. start of the day camaraderie building session that consists of stretching and flexing and announcements on the latest COVID-19 announcements.

Morrison provided a rundown of the construction highlights in the past month including the pouring of the first concrete slab with radiant heating tubing on the second story of “area B” which is the wing pushing out towards Harris Field. Steelwork in “area A” – the administration wing that juts out towards Concord Avenue – will for all intents and purposes be substantially completed” this week.

He also heralded “the huge accomplishment” of installing a massive 32-ton, 100-foot long steel truss that will support the interior bridge in Area C and D in the high school section.

One section of the job that committees have raised concerns is the installation of the infrastructure for the geothermal system. The drilling expenses in the first of three fields spiked recently adding $275,000 to the project cost in additional water management expenses which included added labor, material, and equipment.

“We’ve had some challenges” with drilling pipes “into the unknown of the underground,” said Morrison, who told the meeting that “we feel like we have enough education under our belts now” to handle future issues.

Middle/High School Project Takes Big Step Towards Final Cost Number

Photo: Daedalus Project’s Shane Nolan report on the trade bids during a recent meeting of the Belmont Middle and High School Building Committee.

A sigh of relief was heard from the members of the Belmont Middle and High School Building Committee Friday. Feb. 7 when the bid results from roughly a third of the cost for the $295 million school project came in just under where they thought it would be.

Shane Nolan, senior project manager with Owners Project Manager Daedalus Projects revealed that final bids – which were opened the day before, Thursday, Feb. 6 in a process called “rip and read” – for the 18 trade subcontractors including skills such as masonry, painting, tile work, and plumbing totaled $73.6 million, approximately $1.7 million under their pre-bid estimated value.

“Is this when we cheer?” asked committee member and Select Board Chair Tom Caputo.

The bid results included some large savings in glass and glazing (an underbid of nearly $834,000) and electrical (at $17.9 million, the bid was $1.89 million under the estimate) that off set overbids in HVAC (at $24.4 million was $3.2 million over the estimate) and roofing and flashing (over by $420,000), Nolan told the committee.

With those favorable numbers in hand, the committee voted to add back work struck from the project in 2019 during what Nolan described as the “painful value engineering exercise” which resulted in $19 million cut out of construction.

Brought back from their sidelines will be:

  • Skylights in the High School Maker Space and Middle School Art Room $74,000,
  • A canopy outside the loading dock entrance, $76,000
  • A slab heat ejection at the loading dock $262,000, and
  • Wall tile to four stairwells, $202,000.

Friday’s result is a big step in finalizing the total project cost, according to Bill Lovallo, Building Committee Chair.

“If you want to just look at this as a $237 million project, a third of the job [is underway], a third of the job were in the trades that Shane just read out … and locked in and about a third of the job is still in its final stages,” said Lovallo.

According to representatives from construction manager Skanska, with the trade subcontractor bids included, the total building cost for the project as of Friday’s meeting is $154.5 million. Add into that contingency, insurance and bonds along with management services, the estimated total project cost comes in at $183.0 million.

With a grand total project cost of $237,208,732 – $52 million is coming from the Massachusetts School Building Authority which partnered with the town on the project – the roughly $54.2 million difference is made up of non-trade work controlled by Shanska.

Non-trade contractors are any third party agent that is not directly involved in the major operations of the project.

Unlike the “rip and read” process with Daedalus in which the subcontractors bid is “locked in,” bids for work with the construction manager is “more of a negotiation,” said Lovallo.

The final third of the cost to be revealed in the next six weeks.

Tennis Aced Out Of High School Campus, Moving To An Expanded Winn Brook Location

Photo: Winn Brook tennis courts.

Belmont High Tennis tennis teams will be playing its matches at the courts at Winn Brook Elementary School after Superintendent John Phelan announced a decision by school officials that the sport will not be located on the campus of the new school.

Phelan told the Belmont Middle and High School Building Committee on Tuesday morning, Jan. 7 that building five tennis courts west of Harris Field was unfeasible with the current needs for the land including sub-varsity playing fields for softball, baseball, field hockey and soccer and the likely construction of a new public/private skating rink.

“The reason why we chose tennis was not our lack of respect for the program … but the best universal use of all the space not only on campus but around town,” said Phelan. While a fall and spring sport could be located at the Winn Brook, building a new baseball field at the Winn Brook would impact youth club teams such as soccer, recreational sports and educational programs that currently use the ground.

“It’s a real ripple effect across the town’s spaces which we have to be respectful of,” said Phelan.

The push to keep five courts on the new campus came from student-athletes, their supporters and residents who play tennis who said all varsity sports should take place at the high school. The campaigners also said taking away the court was done in a less than open process.

A reassessment was conducted over three meetings in December by Phelan, Assistant Town Manager Jon Marshall and Belmont High Athletic Director Jim Davis. In the end, the “biggest bang for our dollars” was to keep the existing plans “that will provide the most access to the limited space we have.”

The superintendent pointed out that nearly half of the team teams in the Middlesex League that Belmont is a member play outside of their campus’.

It was determined that travel to and from Winn Brook will be lessened once an underpass is completed at the commuter rail line between Alexander Avenue and the new school.

Phelan noted that including tennis courts to the site would likely delay the issuance of the request for proposal for the new skating rink which will be voted on Tuesday night by the school committee.

To lessen the blow of having to play offsite, Phelan will be working with the town to request funds from the Community Preservation Committee to build two new courts at Winn Brook to allow for regular season and post-season tournament play.

Belmont Middle And High School Is … On Budget!

Photo: In the black

After two misses in which the budget for the new Belmont Middle and High School recorded deficits of $30 million in April and $19 million in late August, it was with a bit of trepidation for the school’s Building Committee to hear the final budget estimate from the design team during the committee’s meeting on Tuesday night, Nov. 5.

With the development at the benchmark 90 percent of all bids, the project design budget was announced as being … in the black by $300,000.


“This is excellent,” said Bill Lovallo, chair of the committee which this Friday will send a dense binder holding all of the project’s 1,300 drawings and financials to the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which is partnering with the town on constructing the $295.2 million, 451,575 square foot school.

“Our final estimated check says that we are on budget,” he told the committee, noting that the final figure was the average of three estimations from each of the design team; architect Perkins+Will, general contractor Skanska and owner’s project manager Daedalus.

Lovallo said he is confident that the remaining contingency funds – about $10 million – will protect the project against escalating costs or construction overruns. He also said that the design team is receiving an interest in the number of firms interested in bidding on the project.

With the budget appearing stabilized, the committee will return in two weeks to discuss possibly bringing back approximately a dozen or so items trimmed during the earlier value engineering dubbed the bid alternative process.

“We want a mechanism by which when we bid and the price has come in a little higher than we expected we have the ability to accept the bids and if they come in a little lower than expected, we could make adjustments to add things that we took out at 60 percent,” said Lovallo, who noted that already Skanska is currently finding additional cost savings in the construction of the school’s facade.

At the Nov. 21 meeting (at 7:30 a.m. in the Belmont Art Gallery in the Homer Building), the committee will take a pared down list of items and rank each item in the committee’s preference of being returned to the building project, ie. the item selected number one will be the first added back with any additional funds.

It’s likely most items on the list will seem mundane – such as tiles and ceiling panels – but they have been identified by several committee members as important components to the educational goals and to the appearance of the school.

A popular item to bring back is the orchestra pit whose campaigners came out to support before the committee last month. Solar power advocates continued their public participation to hold the committee to earlier commitments to keep solar arrays in the building program, although Lovallo said the arrays will not be on the Nov. 21 list since it will likely one of the very last items bid in three years time.

Proposed Traffic Changes In Wellington Area Under Discussion at Public Meeting

Photo: Map of changes being proposed in the Wellington neighborhood.

With the building of the Belmont Middle and High School well underway, the impact of the new building on a number of neighborhood streets will be significant. One area that have identified were traffic and transportation challenges will occur are those streets adjacent to the Wellington Elementary School including School, Orchard, Goden.

The High School Traffic Working Group is hosting a public meeting on Thursday night, Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall to discuss a proposed trial period of recommended changes to traffic patterns. The recommendations by the group are:

  • Create a one-way section of Goden Street between School and Orchard, allowing the intersection of Goden and School to be squared up instead of offset.
  • Create a four-way stop at Orchard and School streets.
  • Create a four-way stop at Orchard and Goden streets.
  • The pair of four-way stops are dependent on acceptance of the one-way on Goden.

The group’s consultant, BSC Group Consulting, will be at the meeting to explain the recommendations and answer questions.