School Week: A Decade Of Work Ends With A Ribbon Cutting Opening Belmont’s New Middle And High School [Video]

Photo: (In no particular order: Superintendent Dr. Jill Geiser; Jim McDonald, MSBA; School Committee Chair Meghan Moriarty; retired Superintendent John Phelan; Building Committee Chair Bill Lovallo; and BMHS students Charlie and Ellie Shea, Jane and Allison Caputo, Maybe Thurston, Elizabeth Zuccarello, and Sarah Lovallo cutting the ribbon opening the new Belmont Middle and High School on Sept. 6, 2023)

Under a blazing hot summer sun, a decade of planning, financing, and construction culminated in the ceremony cutting of the ribbon opening Belmont’s newest school, the Middle and High School, held on the opening day of the 2023-24 school year, Wednesday, Sept. 6.

“This is your building now. Congratulations,” Bill Lovallo, the Middle and High School Building Committee chair, told the assembled students and teachers. Lovallo, along with vice chair Pat Brusch, led the team that shepherded the project after 3/4 of town voters approved a $212 million debt exclusion in November 2018. Construction started in June 2019.

“Your vote made an impactful statement to Belmont and the surrounding communities, approving at the time one of the largest public school projects in the state,” said Lovallo. “Why? Because this community is committed to investing in our future, particularly the future involving our children.”

Costing $295 million to construct, the 450,000-square-foot building will house more than 2,300 students in grades 7-12. Including the hundreds of geothermal wells that will heat and cool the building, more than 2,000 solar panels will be a major electrical power source when its installation is completed at the beginning of 2024.

While the project – designed by Perkins+Will and constructed by Skanska USA – came in “on time and on budget,” according to the building committee, there currently is projected a $1.9 million deficit as a result of a reduction in the $83 million initially promised by the Massachusetts School Building Authority. The shortfall – due to a dispute on what areas of construction are deemed reimbursable – will be resolved in the next 18 months.

Yet that is a future concern as Wednesday saw town and school department officials, employees, and dozens of middle and high school students celebrate the opening of the school year and the completed school held outside of the high school’s dining area overlooking Clay Pit Pond.

“It’s easy for us to see, looking at this building, that the physical spaces of teaching and learning have changed education,” said Meghan Moriarty, chair of the School Committee. “In the coming year, on behalf of the School Committee, we want to help the Belmont community to see how teaching and learning has changed to meet the needs of all of our Belmont students. And how this innovative space and our educators are catalysts in that change.”

In the end, seven Middle and High School students, along with officials, took scissors to ribbon and welcomed the newest school to the Belmont district.

On a side note, 12 years nearly to the day as a kindergartener helping cut the ribbon to open the new Wellington Elementary School in 2011, Sarah Lovallo joined six of her fellow schoolmates in the ribbon cutting for another new school.

The current members of the Belmont Middle and High School Building Committee are:

Amy ZuccarelloSchool Committee Member
Patricia BruschCommittee Vice Chair, Permanent Building Committee Chair, Capital Budget Committee
Thomas CaputoSelect Board Member, CMS parent
Joseph DeStefanoPlanning Board, construction experience, CMS and BHS parent
David BlazonDirector of Facilities
Patrice GarvinTown Administrator, MCPPO Certified
Bill LovalloCommittee Chair, Permanent Building Committee, engineering experience, CMS parent
Michael McAllisterPrincipal, Chenery Middle School
Robert McLaughlinPermanent Building Committee, Warrant Committee
Christopher MesserCommittee Secretary, operations and real estate experience, BHS parent
Diane MillerArchitecture experience, CMS and BHS parent
Joel MooneyPermanent Building Committee, engineering experience
Jill GeiserSuperintendent of Schools
Ellen SchreiberWarrant Committee Member, CMS Parent
Jamie SheaFoundation for Belmont Education, BHS teacher, Burbank, CMS, and BHS parent
Emma ThurstonCommittee Treasurer, business experience, BHS Parent

Town Cuts the Ribbon On DPW Renovation/Addition But Says It Will Be Back Within A Decade For A New Facility

Photo: The ribbon cutting at the DPW renovation and addition with Highway Division Director Mike Santoro doing the honors

After decades of “inhuman working conditions,” the day finally came that employees at the Department of Public Work have a place worthy of their hard work as the town officially opened the newly renovated building and addition which has been in operation for a couple of months.

“I really want to thank my building committee, they were just awesome,” said Ann Marie Mahoney, chair of the Belmont Police Department/Department of Public Works Building Committee which oversaw the renovation work at both the DPW and police headquarters since Town Meet approved the appropriation back in 2016.

But before residents feel content with the $1.6 million spent on the current project, it remains only a temporary fix as a new DPW facility – with a price tag in the range of $25-$30 million – is less than a decade a way as a complete renovation of the entire plant is just not cost effective.

“Wonderful as this is, I do want to remind people that the clock is ticking,” said Mahoney. “When we started, we said 10 years for a permeant building … so put that on your calendars.”

Mahoney also called out architect Ted Galante of THE¬†GALANTE¬†ARCHITECTURE STUDIO in Cambridge as the “creative genius” behind this relatively inexpensive project as well as the recently wrapped up renovation of the Belmont Police Department headquarters.

“I think the biggest challenge for this project was how do you invest in a building wisely but do it in a cost effective way, to provide the DPW with their needs so that it can be a much better place while knowing it will be replaced in a relatively short time,” said Galante.

After the ribbon was cut by Highway Division Director and 40-year DPW veteran Mike Santoro, the committee took a tour of the building which featured segregated facilities for male and female workers to shower, change, and take a break, a conference room while new bays for repairs and maintenance of the department’s vehicles have been installed.

The chief improvements for those who work out of the building “is it brings a sense of dignity to the place,” said Mahoney.

“When I started here all we had was a small area with lockers but no showers and the bathroom facilities were inadequate. We would take a curtain meant to clean the trucks and use it for privacy,” said John Sheridan, a 12-year veteran of the department. “Now we have that privacy; nice locker rooms, a nice kitchen. As you can see, it’s a world of difference.”