ANTHONY SASONGKO -
The Somerville High School is going through major renovation since April 2018 that is expected to finish in mid to late-2021. Although the ongoing construction is inconvenient to current high schoolers, students at the Kennedy school will benefit from the improved facilities in the future.
The existing high school buildings are in poor condition and operating and maintenance costs are high due to aging systems. In addition, according to Boston Magazine, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges had warned that renovation progress was needed or the school’s accreditations may be jeopardized. As a result, the city of Somerville determined it should build a new school.
The endeavor consists of renovating 82,700 square feet of existing building and demolishing the rest; the new energy-efficient building will be nearly 322,000 square feet. The front section where the main entrance will remain and eventually be renovated and reused as offices for either city hall or other city offices; it will not be connected to the new school. The new campus will have a lighted turf field for the first time. The field will be smaller than a full-sized football or soccer field due to space restrictions, but available for physical education classes and some night activities. The $256 million project is the most expensive school construction project in Massachusetts history to date, according to Boston Magazine.
Despite much of the work being done during non-school hours, the project is still disruptive to current students. For example, gym classes are currently held at St. Anne’s or the Cummings School, and students sometimes can’t make it due to bad weather or unsafe walking conditions. The Career and Technical Education (CTE) students still go to shop classes, but without the full equipment, they can’t do nearly the work they used to do.
Widzaire Cyriaque, a current high school student (graduating class of 2020) says: "It [stinks] because we're watching construction of a building that we're never going to get to go in." Brandon Silva, also in the graduating class of 2020, states, “I hate it because we have to go to different schools for different classes and we’re not doing the things we used to do”.
The ongoing construction is a headache for current students, school staff, and the nearby community, but is for a good cause. In the future, when new high school students walk on campus, they will have a brand new, state-of-the-art school. This is relevant for current Kennedy students planning to attend the Somerville high school in the next few years, as they will be among the first to benefit from the building project.
Mayor of Somerville Joseph Curatone stated, "When this project is complete, Somerville High School students will be learning in a building designed to meet the full range of modern educational needs.” Curtatone stated, "Our high school students were already doing some exceptional things, but I can't wait to see what they do in exceptional facilities," Curtatone continued. "As a side bonus, the benefits of the new school and campus also extend to the community with new public event space, redesigned and expanded green space, and an athletic field all coming online with this project as well."