Confidence in Safety & Schedule of WHS Rebuild
This September my daughter and 300 other students started their freshman year and high school careers at WHS – The Class of 2017. I and other parents are understandably asking what the WHS rebuild could mean for the success and safety of students and school staff who will occupy the high school during a major rebuild.
What is the Proposed Schedule?
An affirmative vote on December 10 would allow the project to begin in early summer 2014. Construction would take three phases over three school years. As each phase is completed, new academic spaces will be open for student use, allowing even the Class of 2017 to enjoy most of the renovated building before graduating. This summary schedule shows the impact from the perspective of just that class:
Phase 1- Sophomores (2014-15)
Work begins on one of the three academic wings (A). The center courtyard will be enclosed to construct dining, kitchen and a new media/library space. Pilings and slabs for new additions (administration/guidance and music classrooms) will be established. HVAC systems will be re-moved from the basement, replaced, and relocated to the first floor. This phase would be completed by September 2015.
Phase 2 – Juniors (2015-16)
Wing A, a new dining commons and library are available for fall 2015, when construction begins in the remaining two academic wings. This phase will displace the largest number of academic spaces, but includes relocating and building science labs with necessary safety/ventilation. All core and special education academic spaces will be available by start of school 2016.
Phase 3 – Seniors (2016-17)
New acoustically sound music classrooms will be constructed next to the auditorium which, with the gymnasium, will be receiving a significant face lift. Technology labs will replace auto and metal shop. Landscape design, traffic flow and parking will all be components of this final phase. The project is completed by fall of 2017.
Where will students take classes?
Throughout construction some classes will meet in temporary “swing space,” using modular classrooms (located on the parking lot by the auditorium). These are not the school trailers of our youth. They are in many respects more conducive to academic work than current classrooms. New and more spacious with fresh air, direct sunlight and proper air circulation, conditioning and humidity controls, these “portables” may well be the preferred classrooms during construction for both teachers and students.
As different parts of the building are renovated, different departments (for example, the library or music department) would relocate to the swing space. Students would move between the old building, swing space and newly opened space during the school day. Corridors and walkways will connect the temporary and permanent academic areas.
Will the building be safe for the students and teachers during construction?
Yes. Constant monitoring and testing of the site will be required and students will not be exposed to toxins or other hazards as a result of construction. The same stringent protocols are used for construction at hospitals.
The Town will employ a rigorous indoor air quality plan to minimize contamination, including best practices such as containment barriers, sealing ducts and protecting building materials from moisture and mold. A building ventilation flush-out will be performed prior to occupancy, with HEPA vacuuming prior to substantial completion.
Under ordinary circumstances, high school is a highly charged time — academically, athletically and socially. There will be some disruptions, as we have seen with all major building projects, but despite the challenge and excitement of reconstruction, it would be with the highest confidence that my husband and I would send our daughter to WHS during this community and facility building experience.
To learn more about how construction will be managed or what extraordinary safety protocols will be executed, please visit http://winchesterhsproject.com/learn-more-about-the-project/phasing/
Cindy Bohne has served as a member of the Winchester School Committee since 2012 and the Education Facilities Planning and Building Committee since 2007. She is parent to a daughter in the WHS Class of 2017 and another in the Class of 2021.