Frequently Asked Questions
What is the East Longmeadow High School Project?
The East Longmeadow, High School Project, encompasses all aspects of the planning and construction of the High School, including the selection of the Owner's Project Manager (OPM), designer, and contractor, as well as oversight of the Project.
The Town of East Longmeadow is participating in the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) process to design and construct a new High School. Acceptance to the MSBA program does not guarantee state funding. The MSBA approval process must be completed successfully for the State via the MSBA to provide significant financial assistance to the Project.
In June 2021, the Town approved funds for the East Longmeadow High School Feasibility Study. The final product of the Feasibility Study will be a construction project proposal for which the Town must approve funding via a Town Vote.
Why does East Longmeadow need a new High School building?
The existing facility is comprised of three buildings constructed over 60 years ago; 1959, 1964, 1973. While the District has invested in ongoing maintenance of the existing building, the wholescale needs of the facility are significant and costly. Addressing these needs are paramount to meet the District’s educational goals for the future.
After six years of failed attempts, in 2019, the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) accepted the Town’s application to participate in the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) rebuilding program.
The MSBA offered East Longmeadow HS a grant opportunity for the following reasons:
- Most academic spaces are undersized relative to state guidelines
- Technology and Special Education spaces are substantially undersized
- Science labs lack current technology and space requirements
- Electrical systems are at capacity and frequently fail to meet the basic needs
- Transformer overheats, causing power outages and disruption of classes
- School HVAC systems do not meet current ventilation requirements and lack central air conditioning
- The roof is out of warranty and deteriorating, resulting in leaks and causing classrooms and corridors to be closed temporarily
- Old asbestos tiling, adhesives, and insulation are becoming worn, presenting a possible health hazard
- Windows and doors perform poorly and far below current code requirements causing significant energy loss
- Unsafe site circulation
What is the project schedule?
- Fall 2024 – Construction starts
- Fall 2026 – Students move in
- Summer 2027 – Site work completed
See below detailed full project schedule for more details on the process:
What happens in the current phase of the Project, the Schematic Design Phase?
After the Preferred Schematic design option is selected by the SBC and approved by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), the Project enters the Schematic Design Phase. During this phase, the Design Team works with the SBC to develop a space program, interior floor plans, exterior elevations, building system decisions, and site design priorities so that a project-specific construction budget can be set.
The space program is the list of rooms and areas required in the high school. The MSBA has strict program minimum requirements to which the District must adhere to achieve a reimbursement grant.
Toward the end of Schematic Design, two independent cost estimates are developed and reconciled. The School Building Committee will then review the cost estimates and request changes to the scope of the Project, if necessary, to reduce project cost.. At the end of Schematic Design, the Designer and the OPM will work to prepare the program, plans, and estimates, all in the format required by MSBA. This document, known as the Project Scope and Budget, will be submitted to and reviewed by the MSBA.
If the MSBA agrees, the successful outcome is an executed MSBA Project Scope and Budget Agreement. Once MSBA approves the Project Scope and Budget, the MSBA grant funding proportion will be known, and in applying that to the estimate, the financial impact on the East Longmeadow member communities can be calculated.
A debt exclusion vote to approve borrowing for the Project is scheduled for November 7, 2023.
How will the High School Project be funded?
The MSBA will contribute approximately $63M to the Project from revenue raised from state-wide sales taxes. The MSBA grant contributes to the Project by focusing on core educational and operational space needs. The MSBA grant program is not designed to pay the entire project cost.
The community of East Longmeadow will pay the remainder of the project cost, roughly $114.5M, through a 30-year bond. Town voters must agree to a "debt exclusion" to allow the Town Council to secure the bonds(debt) for the Project. A "debt exclusion" is a temporary increase in property taxes to pay for a specific debt or capital expense, such as a building construction project. A debt exclusion is not permanent. When the Project has been paid for, the temporary increase in property taxes will be revoked and taxes reduced.
On November 7th, 2023, at Birchland Park Middle School, a town-wide debt exclusion vote will be held to appropriate the full project cost.
If the voters do not approve the Project, what happens?
If the voters reject the project at the 11/7 Special Election the school will remain as is. The District could re-apply for a new core MSBA project or undertake renovations without State financial assistance. After a failed debt exclusion vote, it can take 5 to 7 years to be re-accepted. Under any circumstances, the Town will be spending significant funds on the high school in the near future. Rebuilding the high school now with state funds and without delay is the most cost-effective choice for East Longmeadow taxpayers.
What is the cost of doing nothing?
East Longmeadow has an opportunity to receive approximately $55M in reimbursement for the current proposed new high school (based on rough calculations projected from the PSR estimate and standard funding caps). The MSBACore Program is the most sought-after reimbursement program for school building construction projects in the Commonwealth because of the size of the grants. The MSBA typically receives 50-75 Statement of Interest (SOIs) annually. Ten to twelve are invited into the Core Program. East Longmeadow waited six years to be accepted into the program after submitting a Statement of Interest for the High School.
If East Longmeadow fails to approve its share of the funding for the Project and is removed from the MSBA Core Program, then East Longmeadow would be faced with paying all of the cost of a new project, a series of piecemeal smaller capital projects undertaken of several years. The current building is 63 years old. Following the traditional Capital Planning Process, the following separate capital projects would become necessary:
Full Roof Replacement
Total Replacement of Failing systems, starting with the electrical with the mechanical and plumbing to follow
Abatement project to address hazardous materials in aging finishes and systems
Installation of sprinkler systems and replacement/lowering of ceilings to accommodate sprinklers
Renovation of site and building to address accessibility issues
Continued dependence on aging instructional technology and replacement in parts over time
Continued reliance on undersized science labs, undersized gymnasiums, and undersized unique education spaces.
Continued loss of students to School Choice and Charter
Possible reduction in property values
Possible reduction in State education funding
Risk of NEASC accreditation for educational programming
How much will the new High School and Pool Project Cost?
|Est. MSBA Grant:||$63M|
|Est. Town Share:||$114.5M|
|Est. Total Project Cost:||$177.5M|
|Est. Tax Impact on *average single-family home (assessed value)||~$990-~$1,040/yr|
|Est. Town Share:||$16.7M|
|Est. Total Project Cost:||$16.7M|
|Est. Tax Impact on *average single-family home (assessed value)|
How much reimbursement do we expect to receive from the MSBA?
MSBA has agreed to reimburse approximately $63M of the full project cost. The MSBA is reimbursing East Longmeadow at a rate of 61.95% of eligible costs. This is higher than the original rate of reimbursement because the District has opted to pursue a higher level of sustainable building design and indoor air quality, and has been rewarded an additional 1% because of good maintenance practices. However, only $99.M of the project costs are eligible for MSBA reimbursement.
Below is a list of MSBA's current standard funding caps or limits:
Construction reimbursement limit: $393 per square foot.
Site work reimbursement limit: $39 per square foot.
OPM fee reimbursement limit: 3.5% of construction costs (MSBA participation cap at $550 per SF)
Designer fee reimbursement limit: 10% of construction costs (MSBA participation cap at $550 per SF)
Furniture Fixtures and Equipment (FF&E) reimbursement limit: $1,200/student based on eligible enrollment number.
Additionally, there are limits on specific costs associated with legal fees, temp facilities, moving costs and abatement of hazardous materials.
Finally, there are square footage limitations. While almost all of the square footage of the high school is eligible for reimbursement at a rate of 61.95% of $393/sf, the District Offices, ELCAT and Town IT square footage is not eligible and all of the cost of these areas is paid for by the District.
Do we account for inflation in the project budget?
Yes, the industry standard is to escalate to the midpoint of construction. Construction contingencies are also included to account for escalation.
Why did the SBC not elect to repair the current school, and how much would that cost?
A Base Code Upgrade option was studied during the Project's Feasibility Study. (link to Existing Conditions Overview PPT). This option included repairing systems and the scope required for code compliance without modifying existing spaces or their function.
The Code Upgrade estimate addresses the cost of life safety improvements, including installing a fire suppression system, energy improvements, accessibility improvements, and upgrades to mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems to meet current building code requirements. This Base Code Upgrade would not meet the District's educational goals, nor would it provide education spaces that meet MSBA guidelines for teaching spaces. The SBC ultimately voted to remove the option from further consideration.
The estimated budget value for the Code Upgrade Option was based on a presumption that all upgrades would begin simultaneously. In reality, it is unlikely the Town would ever undergo a single renovation effort of that scale all at once for several reasons. First, the school is occupied for9 months of the year, and it would be challenging to undertake whole systems upgrades of this scale while settled or over the compressed summer months. Second, the Town Council would either have to pass a debt exclusion for all the work at once or segregate the systems and building/site component upgrades into several individual capital improvement projects over a more extended period. In that scenario, there would be additional escalation costs and soft costs to account for, which are not accounted for in the Base Code Upgrade estimate. The below table summarizes the Base Code Upgrade Cost. More estimated cost information can be found on the PSR Estimate (PSR Estimates begin on page 177 of the PSR Document).
Base Code Upgrade PSR Estimate Summary (Construction Costs only - Soft Costs not included)
Hazardous Material Abatement
Design & Pricing Contingency
Phasing & Logistics
Overhead & Profit
Are the current drawings showing the actual design and architecture of the future building?
Yes. The updated Schematic Design Plans and Elevations show the design intent and were developed in collaboration with the School Building Committee, faculty, students, and community. If funding is approved, the Design Team will work further for a year to detail the design and develop construction documents.
What's Included in the Project?
Construction of an entirely new high school that meets the District's educational vision
A welcoming and accessible building and site
A new auditorium for music, drama, and large assemblies
New science, engineering, media, and culinary arts labs
A media center designed around 21st-century learning
A school designed to support the needs of diverse learners
A safer and greener parking and circulation plan
A new press box and concession stand
Updates of recreation fields, including softball fields, tennis courts, and basketball courts
A new, separately funded six-lane community pool and locker rooms
Outdoor teaching areas and indoor community meeting spaces
Inclusion of District Central Offices, IT Department, and ELCAT Studio
Inclusion of a large rooftop solar array, EV charging stations, and a highly efficient mechanical system
A school and site that is LEED certified and meets East Longmeadow's Green Community standards
Up-to-date instructional technology and furnishings
A school that is air conditioned and efficiently heated, and supported by an emergency generator
Why are the Central Offices, IT Department, and ELCAT Studio included in the Project?
The Town and SBC actively explored alternate locations for the Central Offices, IT Department, and ELCAT Studio. However, no alternate spaces were available within the Town's current properties. Therefore, new offices would have to be purchased and fit out to house these offices. Town Council and the SBC ultimately felt that moving these programs out of the Project would lead to more cost and logistical complexity for East Longmeadow.
Why is a pool not included in the High School project?
The MSBA does not participate in the funding of a pool in school construction projects. The East Longmeadow Pool Building Committee has been established, and the JWA/SMMA design team has been hired to design a six-lane community pool building adjacent to the new high school as a separate project on the same schedule. The new collection will require a different funding vote at the same time as the vote to approve the ELHS Building Project. The two projects are anticipated to be completed simultaneously if approved by the voters.
Why not renovate the existing school?
The School Building Committee looked at a base repair option and found that cost savings were outweighed by the educational outcomes and long-term operational benefits of an entirely new school designed to meet the District and community's needs.
Specific downsides to a renovation project were:
Poor overall plan organization
Results in undersized classrooms
Results in lowered ceiling heights to accommodate the installation of ventilation and sprinklers
Security concerns associated with entry and exit locations and site control
Variance requirements for accessibility issues
Continued reliance on natural gas boilers
Continued operational expense associated with less efficient building design
The requirement to relocate students and staff during the two-year renovation process
There would be many challenges bringing the building up to code, resulting in smaller than current classroom sizes and floor-to-floor heights.
Why is no parking in the current site plan at the sports fields?
The primary goal for this high school project is designing through the lens of students and staff, the prior users of the campus. The current design strives to balance a student-oriented and pedestrian-friendly campus while providing adequate vehicular circulation, parking, and emergency access. Driveways and parking surrounding the entire building perimeter detract from the connection to outdoor learning and social spaces and can be a safety concern. The school staff, students, and community have voiced a strong desire to connect the new building and outdoor student spaces to nature - the wooded and resource areas to the south. To achieve this goal, the current site layout seeks to limit vehicle circulation and parking generally to the north half of the site and keep the areas around the southern half (adjacent to the outdoor student spaces) more pedestrian friendly while providing adequate emergency access. Visitors to the athletic fields will be able to use the staff parking lot at the front of the building and the parking lot to the west and access the areas using the provided paths. We have also incorporated a limited number of accessible parking spaces at the end of Norden Street to provide closer access to the western fields for those with limited mobility.
When will the new building be complete?
If approved by the voters, the project will begin the Detailed Design phase, with construction tentatively scheduled to begin in the Summer of 2024 and the New HS to open in Fall of 2026. The class of 2027 will be in the new high school building.
Where will students be housed during construction? Will modular be needed during construction?
The existing High School will remain fully occupied during construction, resulting in no modular classrooms or swing space. It will be the top priority and utmost importance to limit the disruption to students. The Construction Manager at Risk (Firm TBD) and Project Team will work with the School Administration to mitigate noise, vibration, dust, and ease of access during the construction process.
Who is on the East Longmeadow HS Building Committee, and when does it meet?
The School Building Committee represents school and town leadership, School Committee, Facilities Department, educators, architects, residents, industry professionals, parents, town meeting members, and more. The Building Committee meets monthly in the School Committee Conference room and via Zoom. The meetings are open to the public, and participation is encouraged. Agendas are posted here.
Who is the MSBA, and what is their role in this Project?
The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) is a funding partner for the East Longmeadow HS project and projects across the Commonwealth.
The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) is a quasi-independent government authority created to reform the process of funding capital improvement projects in the Commonwealth's public schools. The MSBA strives to work with local communities to develop affordable, sustainable, and energy-efficient schools across Massachusetts.
The Legislature created the MSBA in 2004 to replace the former school building assistance program administered by the Department of Education (now the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education).
The MSBA, which has a dedicated revenue stream of one penny of the State's 6.25-percent sales tax, is collaborating with municipalities to equitably invest in finding the right-sized, most fiscally responsible, and educationally appropriate solutions to create safe, sound, and sustainable learning environments.