New High School Proposal Moves Forward at Meeting

Thursday, October 11, 2012
By Transcript Staff

The several options to upgrade the physical structure of the Winthrop High School  building that was completed in the 1960’s was presented at the Winthrop School Committee (WSC) meeting on Thursday night. The Hill Miller Friedlaender Hollander (HMFH)  architectural firm presented four different options to upgrade the existing high school or completely rebuild a new high school to meet future educational needs.  The presentation took place at the WSC) meeting. The plans call for the middle and high schools to include upgrades to meet Americans with Disabilities (ADA) codes regarding handicap accessibility, and improving the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.

Presently, many of the  school’s mechanical systems are failing and these suggestions for improvements are in the preliminary stages.

Option A is for a three-story addition and renovation for grades 6-12 at the existing Winthrop High School. The renovations would  consist of general high school classrooms, science labs, an alternative physical education station, cafeteria, kitchen, and black box theater. In this option, the existing high school would be gutted once students were moved into a temporary location, and a larger gym, and new library and auditorium would be built.

Option B calls for the existing high school to be taken down to the foundation. The entire foundation may be able to be reused. In its place, a new high school would be erected, and students would have to relocate during the construction. All of the athletic fields will be kept.

Option D involves constructing a new, three-story, 6-12 building, but puts the building in the floodplain, which creates complications regarding permission for the one phase construction. Approval would have to go through the Conservation Commission.  With this plan, a field would be lost, and students would remain in the existing building until the new one is finished.

In Option E, for grades 9-12, the floodplain would need to be recreated at the existing foundation of the current school. This would mean a longer permitting process from the Department of Environmental Protection, and comes with the cost of renovating the middle school. The HMFH has a special construction for the foundation that raises the building off of the floodplain so that only the caissons, watertight structures for the foundation, are going through. Elevating the building will significantly increase the cost.

Also, in reusing the concrete frames that are in place now, that frame and foundation of the high school must be braced. Due to new seismic regulations, the frame of the school would need to be stiffened and additional beams would be installed between piles to make the structure more rigid.

Option A, which will reuse the entire structure, classifies under the renovation category, so only a few renovations would be needed to meet the new state code for seismic upgrades. In Option B, just the caissons are being reused; therefore, the building is almost being gutted entirely, and would have to meet seismic requirements for a new building. Option A would cost an estimated $43 million, and for one million dollars more, Winthrop could receive a completely new building for students under Option B.

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