General Project Questions
Specific Project Elements
I understand that WHS now will have three scheduled lunches per day instead of two. Why wasn’t the cafeteria designed and built to be large enough to easily accommodate all students in only two lunch periods?
Layout and Site Questions
Project Cost and Tax Impact
General Project Questions
A. The project is a comprehensive redesign and rebuild of the high school facility (built in the 1970s) to accommodate the design enrollment of 1,370 students for grades 9 – 12 (the 2014-15 high school enrollment was 1,164 students). The project consists of the new construction of administration/guidance offices, music classrooms, media center and the enclosure of the center courtyard to create a central dining/meeting commons. Most of the original building will be stripped down to the concrete slabs and vertical pilings and rebuilt from the foundation.
By the end of the project, the 20,000 square feet of the basement will be decommissioned and all building systems will be moved to the first floor.
The renovated auditorium improves the overall finishes, addresses acoustics, and updates performance/meeting equipment within the space. The original gymnasium space, which is over-sized compared to what the state would permit for new construction, will receive the least level of renovation and will reuse much of the existing fixtures and equipment. Back to Top
A. The three-phase construction began in June 2014 and will be completed in September 2017. The First Phase (June 2014 – September 2015) included the relocation of the building systems to the first floor, the construction of the administration area, the music suite, the center commons and media center, with work on the auditorium extending into the beginning of Phase Two. Phase Two (June 2015 – September 2016), will include the renovation of the gymnasium and one of the academic wings (Pod C). Phase Three (June 2016 – September 2017) addresses the renovation of the remaining academic wings (Pods A and B). Landscape design and traffic/parking design will also be completed during the last Phase.
A. The school was approximately 280,327 square feet, including 20,000 square feet of uninhabitable basement space. The new building will be 288,840 square feet, consisting of 264,277 square feet of renovated/rebuilt space and 24,563 square feet of additional new space. By fully reconstructing the academic wings, Winchester is addressing its enrollment needs for 10 additional classrooms with minimal new construction. See http://winchesterhsproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/educational-program-space-summary.pdf; http://winchesterhsproject.com/addressing-enrollment-growth/.Back to Top
A. Educational programs and instructional practices have changed in the 40+ years since Winchester High School was built. Today’s schools must accommodate the growing use of technology, appropriate space for special education and student support services, classrooms that are right-sized and flexible for large and small group instruction and interdisciplinary work and functional science labs. See http://winchesterhsproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/educational-program-space-summary.pdf; WHS Project Goals; Addressing Enrollment Growth, and Learn More About the ProjectBack to Top
Specific Project Elements
A. “Dining commons” and “media center” are just new names for old concepts that have been updated to reflect changes in practice. The dining commons is designed to serve as more than just a place where students eat lunch. Located in the center of the building, it functions as the heart of the building and can be used as a multi-purpose room for small group team activities, large-group instruction, and professional development programs for staff. In addition to serving the high school population, it will also provide space for the community to use for civic purposes.
Neither space added any measurable cost to the project and should not be considered to be “luxuries.” In fact, the new dining commons rehabilitates a formerly under-utilized area of the building that was difficult to maintain (the interior courtyard) while freeing up additional space in one academic wing for classrooms.Back to Top
Q. I understand that WHS now will have three scheduled lunches per day instead of two. Why wasn’t the cafeteria designed and built to be large enough to easily accommodate all students in only two lunch periods?
A. In order for Winchester to partner with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) on the high school project, the design needed to comply with MSBA rules and guidelines, including size restrictions for various spaces based on agreed-upon population numbers, as well as trends and practices in education and building management. The MSBA has not in recent years approved high school designs (for student populations comparable to Winchester’s) where the cafeteria size assumed only two lunch seatings. Most Massachusetts high schools have three lunches, and some even four. This is the model that is supported financially by the MSBA, and the WHS cafeteria is sized as large as the MSBA would permit.
WHS has begun a program of three lunches, and it will be reviewed and refined to make both cafeteria space and schedules as efficient as possible for students and teachers. href=”http://winchesterhsproject.com/faqs/#top”>Back to Top
A. The MSBA will not reimburse any funds connected with a pool, and so a pool would have needed to have been funded separately. In addition, there is not yet consensus within the Town on the best location for a pool. Swim Winchester, a private non-profit group, has conducted a feasibility study and is currently working with Town boards and management to consider a limited number of preferred sites.Back to Top
A. Yes, the High School will be air conditioned, with the exception of the gymnasium, as this is such a large space to cool. The HVAC system will be new and will result in better dehumidifying and quieter fans in the new space, and specifically the gymnasium.Back to Top
A. No. The proposed design calls for a new roof with slope insulation, creating a positive pitch of 1/4″ for every foot across the entire roof area.Back to Top
A: The Sachem logo was moved during April 2016 vacation to a prominent position in the gymnasium, in accordance with construction and design plans. During Phase 3 (commencing June 2016), the entire A wing will be under construction, including the exterior surface on which the logo was located. Relocating the logo enables construction to proceed. Following construction, the original logo will remain in the gym. A replacement logo has been approved by the EFPBC to be appropriately sized and installed on the window above the main entrance. Click HERE to see a rendering of the approved design.Back to Top
Layout and Site Questions
A. In order to create greater green space around the building which was requested during community hearings, some parking has been relocated to the other side of the train tracks (105 spaces).
The number of parking spaces was increased by 36 (337 to 373) to reflect growing enrollment from 907 students (2000) to the project design enrollment of 1370 — a 50% increase. Most spaces have been added to accommodate the parallel growth in staff and teachers. Traffic Consultants, Bryant Associates, have reviewed the plan and will assist in the development of both the traffic patterns and parking design. A goal of this project is also to change the culture around student parking at the school and to provide better accommodations for bikers and walkers.Back to Top
A. Not necessarily. Once the existing track is removed, playing fields can be more efficiently painted to allow the same number of playing fields.Back to Top
A. The High School project repositions the baseball diamond and relocates parking spaces from the rear of the High School to Ciarcia/Skillings Field, adjacent to the High School. Flood mitigation is not part of the High School project. However, the Town’s Flood Mitigation program includes the construction of a fourth culvert under Ciarcia/Skillings Field. That culvert will be built during the course of the High School project in order to save the Town money and also to minimize the amount of time the fields are out of play. See http://www.winchester.us/index.php/flood-hazard-website/65-flood-hazard-website/408-flood-mitigation-program.html for more information about the Town’s Flood Mitigation Program. In April 2015, Town Meeting voted to appropriate funds for the culvert. In June 2015, voters approved a debt exclusion override to pay for the culvert project.Back to Top
A. The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) required Winchester to evaluate 12 potential locations. Only four of the sites satisfied the minimum acreage, including facilities, playing fields, and parking: 1) The existing site; 2) Ciarcia/ Skillings Field; 3) Wright-Locke Farm; and 4) the Town Forest. The EFPBC and the MSBA agreed that the existing site was the best choice both in terms of cost and speed to completion and the other three options were eliminated as possibilities.
For example, Ciarcia/Skillings Field was not a viable option because it is almost entirely within the floodplain and almost two-thirds are in the floodway. The current site is the only existing area fully above the 100-year floodplain. Construction could have been delayed by years, with escalation costs of 4% annually, until after certain flood mitigation efforts were completed – some of which depend upon neighboring communities. Wright-Locke Farm and the Town Forest both offered challenging topography, among other issues. Background documents: Selecting the Right Site, the June SMMA Alternative Site Study.Back to Top
A. The flood mitigation efforts already undertaken in Winchester have greatly reduced the flooding in the area and as a result, the building is not currently in the floodplain. In fact, the first floor is three feet above the floodplain. Moreover, the rebuild relocates all of the electrical and mechanical systems above grade so that they would not be affected by flooding. Moisture barriers and ventilation in the basement will help air movement and prevent any moisture odors. Back to Top
A. Because the roof, windows, exterior shell and ventilation system throughout the building (including the basement) will all be new, the building will no longer be subject to water leaks and problems with moisture. One of the reasons the original building was subject to mold is because the exterior brick wall sat right against the concrete block with no separation. Without any separation, moisture from the brick penetrates the concrete block and the concrete cannot dry properly. With the rebuild/renovation, the existing exterior enclosure will be completely demolished and replaced with a new exterior sheathing system and several types of veneer. The building will be protected with a new air moisture barrier around the entire structure, fully insulated and sheathed with new primary weather barrier materials.
The underside of the first floor will be insulated from the crawlspace underneath with insulation. The exterior walls will also be insulated and continuous panels of insulation installed on the cold side of the enclosures to reduce thermal bridging. The existing roofing will be replaced with a new light color membrane roof and insulation. Finally, the new windows will open, which will vastly improve airflow and air quality.Back to Top
A. Yes. Constant monitoring and testing of the site is required and students will not be exposed to any toxins or other hazards as a result of the construction project. The same type of construction work is done consistently in hospitals, and the construction team will be using the same stringent protocols.
In particular, the town will be working with 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. In addition, the town will use permanent indoor air quality design features such as walk-off mats and isolation of areas of chemical use using partitions and negative air pressure. Low VOC (volatile organic compound) materials will be selected for interior paints, coatings, adhesives, sealants, resilient flooring and adhesives, carpet and adhesives, floor finishes, tile setting adhesives and grout, acoustical wall and ceiling panels, wall board, cabinetry and furniture. Formaldehyde-free, low-VOC particleboard and composite wood products will be used and there will be pollutant control through the use of high efficiency MERV filters (MERV 13 or better). There will be a building ventilation flush-out performed prior to occupancy, as well as HEPA vacuuming prior to substantial completion. See http://info.smma.com/files/SECTION-2_FINAL-DESIGN-PROGRAM.pdf.Back to Top
Project Cost and Tax Impact
A. The Total Project Budget was estimated in 2013 at $129.9 million with approximately $101.1 million in construction costs. On October 2, 2013, the State voted to support the project with a maximum grant of $44.5 million. Winchester approved a debt-exclusion override in December 2013 to provide its share (estimated at $85.4 million). An overview of the project costs is available online, as is the full budget breakdown.
In November 2014, the EFPBC voted to approve the construction cost of the project called the Gross Maximum Price (GMP), based upon the work of the Construction Manager at Risk (CM), including bidding. The GMP originally came in approximately $200,00 under the original budget. Because of this difference, the EFPBC chose to include in the project four line items designated as alternates. This means that if the actual final cost is less than the GMP (approximately $101.2 million), these items could be incorporated.
A. While the cost of the project is high, when you look at it on a cost per square foot basis, it’s actually in line with (and in some cases lower than) the cost of other MSBA projects at the same stage. See MSBA BOD 2013_10_02 Projects. Looking at other projects approved at the same time as Winchester’s, school construction cost currently averages about $354 per square foot, with Winchester’s estimated construction cost at $350 per square foot. Total project costs average $468 per square foot, with Winchester’s estimated total project cost at $450 per square foot.
Total project costs – in this case $129.9 million – consist of $101 million in construction costs, with the balance in “soft costs” (architectural, engineering, legal) and swing space. See http://winchesterhsproject.com/proposed-project-costs/.
Since the MSBA is providing $44.5 million of state aid, Winchester is able to consider a project that delivers $129.9 million of value at a cost to Winchester of $85.4 million. As a result, the town is able to meet its three project goals – addressing code deficiencies in a sustainable way, providing adequate space for enrollment, and meeting educational programming needs – in a fiscally prudent manner, within a reasonable timeframe.Back to Top
A. Yes. In order to finalize the GMP, the EFPBC was involved in value engineering, which is an exercise used to determine if there are any possible reductions available that would not compromise educational objectives. Reductions can be from three categories: material changes, quantity of material and design options. In total, the EFPBC evaluated more than 90 options ranging in value individually from $3,500 to over $300,000. For example, the Committee decided to reduce the quantity of tile material on corridor walls from 6’-6’’ to 5’-0’, which reduced the cost by $147,000.Back to Top
A. As part of the Feasibility Study process, the town explored a code only upgrade, a new building, and various levels of renovation and rebuilding. See http://winchesterhsproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/WHS-Final-Evaluation-of-Alternatives.pdf and http://winchesterhsproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/2012-09-26__revised-EFPBC_Winchester__Alternatives_Pricing.pdf. However, merely addressing code violations and making minor renovations to the school would not remedy the space shortage (10 additional classrooms are needed to accommodate growing enrollment) or allow for the kind of reconfiguration that is needed to meet the state’s educational space standards. See http://winchesterhsproject.com/efpbc-renovation/; http://winchesterhsproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/educational-program-space-summary.pdf.
Working with the MSBA, the town did look at a number of building options, see, e.g., http://winchesterhsproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/2012-10-03__TargetProjectCost_CommunityOutreachMTG_Winchester.pdf, and reduced the cost of the project from its original proposal of $144 million/313,000 square feet to the current project. Winchester did not pursue a model school because of the complexities of all of the potential sites. Typically model schools are located in large flat open spaces, conducive to any design features.Back to Top
A. The WHS rebuild is managed by the standing Education Facilities Planning and Building Committee (EFPBC). The EFPBC has managed all other school building projects since it was created two decades ago. In every case, the project has come in under budget.
In addition, the town is using a “Construction Manager At Risk” (CM) approach rather than the traditional Design, Bid, Build which would have required the town to use the lowest bidder, regardless of quality or reliability. With the CM approach, a contractor was hired before the design development phase. One of the great advantages of the CM project delivery method is the CM (Consigli) works directly with the design team and the project manager (OPM) during the final design and construction document phases. In this way the CM becomes intimately involved with the project and suggests ways of reducing cost without reducing quality. The CM at Risk approach chosen for this project mitigates risk for both cost and schedule. Consigli is experienced in phased construction, planning and logistics and was able to play an integral part in finalizing a design that it must complete on time and within budget. This approach prevents project creep and ensures that Consigli, rather than the town, is at risk for meeting the project scope and budget.
In addition, the CM carries a $2,500,000 GMP contingency and the town has an additional total contingency of $5,560,524. Caution and careful oversight of the project is required, because unexpected latent conditions might arise as construction proceeds (a ‘latent condition’ in construction is an unforeseen problem requiring attention and resolution).Back to Top
A. A debt exclusion override is a temporary increase in taxes to pay for a specific debt – typically a capital expense such as a building renovation or repair. It is not permanent. When the project has been paid for, the temporary increase will be revoked and taxes reduced. See, e.g., http://www.mass.gov/dor/docs/dls/publ/misc/levylimits.pdf.Back to Top
A. The exact cost to Winchester residents is yet to be determined because the terms of all of the borrowing to be undertaken (length, interest rate, etc.) have not yet been established. Also, depending on the types of bonds, the amount may vary slightly from year to year. In 2013, in anticipation of Winchester’s voters considering the override for the WHS project, the Town projected that for a taxpayer owning a house valued at $750,000, $825 would be a reasonable estimate for what the annual increase might be at the time of the full borrowing (FY18). This estimate was based upon assumptions that you can read [here], including a projected total borrowing of $85.4 million at an interest rate of 5%. Since that time, the Town has borrowed $60 million of the project cost, at an interest rate of 3.38%. These terms compare favorably with the original estimate, although terms for the remaining borrowing will not be known until the subsequent debt is issued (likely not before fiscal year 2017).
A. The exact impact will not be known until the terms of all of the bonds have been established (see FAQ immediately above). However, please see http://winchesterhsproject.com/tax-impact/ to get a sense of what your tax increase might be based upon original estimates at the time of the 2013 override and based upon actual borrowing that has occurred since that time. For more information, please contact the Town Manager’s office (781-721-7133) or the Treasurer’s office (781-721-7124).Back to Top
A. Early in the project, the town secured BANs (Bond Anticipation Notes) to cover the initial costs of the construction, with the taxpayers bearing only the cost of the interest on the BANs. The tax increase from these interest payments began in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016, and are extremely small in amount as the town’s total interest costs were very low (less than $2,500 and $35,000 in each of FY15 and FY16, respectively).
The town undertook $60 million of permanent borrowing in July 2015 (compared to an estimated cost to the town of $85.4 million for the full project). Payments on that debt will begin in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017). Tax bills will likely reflect full borrowing for all project costs beginning in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018.Back to Top
A. In 2013, in anticipation of Winchester’s voters considering the override for the WHS project, the Town provided some estimates on tax impact, which you can view (along with updates) at http://winchesterhsproject.com/tax-impact/. Those estimates conservatively assumed: (1) an interest rate of 5%, (2) a term of 25 years, and (3) a “level debt service” structure. In a level debt service arrangement, payments are structured so that the total amount of principal and interest payments are equal for each year of the term (with the tax impact remaining roughly constant each year, assuming no increase in assessed home value). This contrasts with “equal principal” structure, in which payments are structured so that an equal amount of principal (and resulting interest) is paid in each year.
Since the passage of the override, the Town has permanently borrowed $60 million of the project cost, at an interest rate of 3.38% (compared to the projected 5%). In addition, the loan was structured on an “equal principal” basis. Compared to the assumed “level debt service” approach, the equal principal structure pays down debt faster, and so results in lower overall cost to the town and taxpayers as a whole. (Payments are increased somewhat in the short run, but decrease over the term of the loan.) Finally, the term of borrowing is 30 years, versus the assumed 25-year term. (This increases the town’s borrowing costs, but lowers the annual payment level.)
These terms compare favorably with the original estimate. (For instance, if the Town had borrowed the projected $87 million full cost on the same terms as the $60 million, the impact on the tax rate in fiscal 2018 would be almost the same as originally estimated using the 2013 assumptions, but then the annual tax amount would decline rather than remain constant as originally projected. This is primarily due to the favorable rate, but partly also due to the longer term.) However, terms for the remaining borrowing (project cost in excess of $60 million) will not be known until the subsequent debt is issued (likely not before fiscal year 2017).Back to Top
A. Thus far, the town has permanently borrowed $60 million for a term of 30 years. That bond will be paid off by the end of fiscal 2046. More borrowing remains, but it is not yet known whether the term will be 25 or 30 years. For the borrowing undertaken thus far, resident taxes will decrease over time beginning in fiscal 2018. Whether that will be true with respect to future debt will depend on whether the bond calls for “level debt service” (consistent payments) or “level principal” (declining payments).Back to Top
A: The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) is the government authority through which the Commonwealth of Massachusetts reimburses cities and towns for school construction projects. It participates in the management of any project that qualifies for reimbursement, and studies and designs that are eligible for funding must comply with its process and standards. For more information about the MSBA, visit its web site.Back to Top
A. Reimbursement rates for MSBA-approved, eligible school construction and renovation projects are calculated pursuant to a formula that is established in Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 70B section 10 (M.G.L. c. 70B § 10). The statutory formula starts all districts at a Base Rate of 31 percentage reimbursement points. The Base Rate of 31 percentage reimbursement points may be adjusted based on three socioeconomic factors: 1) Community Income, Community Property Wealth and Community Poverty. The MSBA may, in its discretion, raise the reimbursement rate if it determines that a district is eligible for certain incentive points.
The MSBA established a base contribution rate for Winchester of 33.95%. That rate was then raised by 8.97 percentage points to 42.92% because the town decided to do a renovation rather than rebuild new (4.58 pts), to pursuit CM-At Risk versus Design/Bid/Build (1pt), to ensure certain maintenance protocals (1.39pts) as well as to incorporate energy-efficient measures under the High Efficiency Green School program(2 pts). (Background document: Sustainable design article).
A. The town will continue to keep residents informed through community forums hosted by the Education Facilities Planning and Building Committee (EFPBC), the project architects, and the Winchester League of Women Voters, through the District’s project website, newsletters, white papers, Town Manager sponsored forums, cable television and mailers. The local media is invited to all meetings of the EFPBC (which are public meetings), the School Committee and the Board of Selectmen. Additionally, local reporters are engaged to provide them information for articles, updates and breaking news. In addition, the town will continue to reach out to community members through municipal and school websites, PTO newsletters and emails and School Messenger (an email list server of all families with students in the schools). Back to Top
A. Yes, the public is invited to submit questions and comments through the project email, firstname.lastname@example.org. The EFPBC also welcomes public input at all of its public meetings, the time and location of which are posted on the town website and at Town Hall.Back to Top