Home coming soon
Sutton High-Middle School project gathers momentum
By Josh Farnsworth
Superintendent of Schools Ted Friend gives an early peek of the new high school auditorium. Steve King photo Sutton – Superintendent of Schools Ted Friend intends to speak to faculty members on Aug. 25.
He intends to do so from the new, state-of-the-art auditorium being steadily built as plans for the new middlehigh school continue to move towards perhaps the most important date on the academic calendar: April 1, the projected date that all construction is done and the school system can enjoy the fruits of their years-long labor.
Last August, despair hung over Boston Road like a storm cloud.
The school system and town were at odds with contractor TLT Construction Corporation, which missed several construction deadlines leading up to the start of the 2013-2014 academic year. Plans to house juniors and seniors at Lifesong Church were in the works. Upperclassmen missed multiple weeks of school while preparations were made, finally attending classes in makeshift academic spaces.
An outdoor courtyard is expected to host several smaller school functions in the coming years. One year later, optimism and progress have chased away the clouds.
Friend has gotten in a regular exercise regiment this summer, walking around the site of the new school which for the summer has smelled like sawdust with drills providing the soundtrack.
Much of the work involves the details, waiting on a few tiles to be delivered here, a ventilation system for the roof there.
Friend said the much of the summer progress has solely been about catching up to where the project timeline should
“It’s been 100 percent different from this time last year,” said Friend. “We have been fixing all the [mistakes] from last year. There are so many little loose ends. For the start of the school year, however, everything is ready in the middle school this year.”
A newly constructed walkway between the newer and older portions of the school infrastructure. Steve King photos The project was set in motion back in 2007-2008, when the Massachusetts School Building Authority stated that Sutton was one of the school districts being considered for a round of grants that would
reimburse about 55 percent of the total cost of the nearly $60 million project.
Town residents approved an article at the 2010 May Town Meeting and then at the election ballot weeks later to fund their part of the cost of the project.
More than a year after they began, TLT was dismissed by the town last fall, replaced this past February by Brait Builders. TLT is currently suing the town for, according to a copy of the lawsuit, “wrongful termination, indemnification, breach of contract, quantum merit (failure to pay a workman what he is owed), unjust enrichment, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, failure to mitigate, wrongful interference, and declaratory judgment.”
A look at one of the revamped hallways of the new school. Workers putting up the brick exterior of the new high school. Steve King photos Brait has been busy this summer, said Friend.
Completed and ongoing projects include the addition of 22,000 square-feet of laminate wood paneling down the halls and outside facing the new courtyard of the new middle school section of the building, which will be complete by the open of school. Tiles within the middle school building are being replaced with proper pieces.
The courtyard itself is scheduled for completion by the end of September. A new water filtration system for the school was scheduled to go online last week. A new parking lot on the Putnam Hill Road side of the facility will bring an additional 120 spots to school visitors, ensuring Boston Road is not overwhelmed with vehicles during major events at the facility.
Much of the exterior of the new high school building has been properly bricked. Once windows are installed in this section, work can begin on the interior second floor of the building. A temporary canopy will be placed over the entrance to the school as well. The entire exterior of the new high school will be completed by Sept. 1, according to the superintendent.
“Then the focus shifts totally entirely to the [interior of the] high school during September,” said Friend.
New amenities for the interior will include a new auditorium complete with professional level equipment and set rigging that boasts 17 rows of pulleys, with the capacity for more than 500 seats, including balcony-style sections and multi-colored lighting to give the stage the appropriate tone for the appropriate event.
A seated glance of the new auditorium. Steve King photo A room just off the auditorium will house a new television studio that will be utilized by Sutton Cable Access, as well as the public, once it is outfitted with equipment.
“This is a public building,” said Friend. “They should have access. It will be a nice addition for the town.”
The challenge by Aug. 25, according to the superintendent, will be the central office space and auditorium. If they are not finished by that date, a contingency plan exists. No matter what, students will not see a repeat of last year’s amended schedule.
“School is starting on time,” said Friend.
Work is being simultaneously completed across the lot at the elementary school field, where an updated drainage system is being installed in time for soccer season.
Even if the current construction schedule is met earlier than deadline, Friend said there is no definitive plan for when high school students will be moved into their new space. He said such a decision will be a doublemove, forcing all high school personnel into their space and middle school personnel from the mobile classrooms currently occupying the field in front of the building into the finished middle school space the high school is currently using- a tough relocation project in the middle of a school year.
“My plan is to move as soon as we can,” said Friend.
In just one year, much has changed, and Friend is excited for one more year’s time, where next summer will see no contractors and no large pieces of construction equipment at the school.
As for now, the various small pieces continue to filter down Boston Road and get put together. The curtain is set to go up on Aug. 25 for Friend to address the faculty, assuming the curtain arrives on time this week.
Friend will put in his final laps circumventing the building to watch it all come together for one last week of summer before more time is need spent in his new office, assuming the office is built on time by the end of this week.
Either way, normalcy is coming in the summer of 2015, and Sutton’s shiny new school even sooner.
“I am really looking forward to life without construction,” he said. “And I think it will be a big relief for the entire community.”