Belmont High School

Belmont is approaching a decision to rebuild its single most important public asset:  Its high school.

Town meeting established a building committee in February 2016.  The members of the building committee include many of Belmont’s most capable and experienced public servants — people with great depth in all the phases and disciplines of public construction.

The basic case for the project is strong.  The high school’s physical plant is approaching its 50th year of service.  Many building systems are outdated or failing.  The plant is due for a major renovation or replacement.  Additionally, the high school  is overcrowded — in fact, the school system at all grade levels is overcrowded.

Enrollments in the whole Belmont school system have been growing rapidly over the past decade and are expected to continue to grow.  Construction of a new school with the capacity for grades 7 through 12 would relieve crowding at all levels.  The Chenery Middle School could become a facility supporting three grades instead of four (4-6 instead of 5-8) and the town’s four elementary schools would become K-3 facilities.  The new 6 year facility would be divided in to a lower house and an upper house to reflect different instructional models and to separate students in different age brackets.

The building committee and the school department have been conducting a very transparent and thorough examination of all the options.  Regardless of the approach taken, the project cost will be substantial and will need to be funded through a long-term borrowing supported by a property tax increase which will be noticeable for most taxpayers.  The hope is to make all the major decisions about the project over the coming months and to present the financial proposal to the voters for approval on the November 2018 ballot.

Upcoming meetings are listed here.  Exhaustive documentation of the project’s development appears here. Now is the time for community members to begin paying close attention to this project which is critical to the town’s future.

Update: Configuration finalized

Read the town’s statement here

Recent Growth Surge in Belmont Schools

Source: Statistical reports from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (2002-2016); Annual Reports of the Town of Belmont (1990-2001)compiled, January 14, 2018.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

9 replies on “Belmont High School”

  1. I support to building of a new high school to accommodate a larger student enrollment. I believe the new facility will have a positive impact upon learning and energy conservation as well

  2. There is no better investment than our town’s schools.

    For those concerned about an increase in property taxes remember that good schools helps to increase out property values. More families moving to Belmont for our schools means our homes will be worth more.

  3. The recent changes in federal tax laws will eliminate deductibility of a significant portion of local property taxes for many Belmont residents. This makes any incremental dollar of town revenues significantly more expensive to Belmont voters and the political hurdles to overrides more challenging.

    The town needs to supplement property tax revenues with other sources of funds. One venue used in many other states is a local option on fuel taxes. In addition to bolstering our revenues, the strategy makes sense both in terms of climate change policy, and because localities — just like states and the feds — spend a great deal of money to build and maintain roads. That has been the primary use of gasoline tax revenues since the early days of the interstate highway system.

    Introducing a local option on the state gasoline tax would require action at the state level; the town has no power to implement anything on its own. When I’ve raised it with you in the past, you have said that anything involving energy taxes (the state also exempts residential and commercial fossil fuel consumption from sales taxes) wouldn’t be able to pass the state house regardless of how much sense it would make to do.

    I hope that you might consider revisiting the issue. Perhaps the hit all municipalities will feel from the federal tax changes will open possibilities that didn’t exist six months ago.

  4. A new high school for Belmont is long overdue. We need a state of the art facility with air quality updates and space. We waited far too long to rebuild the Wellington while many of us had minimal heat in our classrooms. Please, let’s be smarter and get this high school built. We need to support this.

  5. Certainly a new building is needed but undoubtedly the cost will be high, thus Belmont taxpayers need to calculate our large unfunded pension liability, the costs of running our small town and our limited tax base. Consider this and a millionaire tax surtax Senator Brownsberger supports, the loss of state tax and mortgage deductions and inevitable local tax increases even without the cost of a new building bond, I wonder if this all adds up.
    Our our wants too big for our wallets?

  6. Trying to address general overcrowding by building a 7- 12 high school avoids addressing the developmental needs of the students and the impact of three school transitions. While it sounds like a neat solution, the true impossiblilty of ‘keeping the lower grades separated from the influence of the upper” should be recognized. The vital common spaces of cafeteria, library, gym, outdoor play areas, music and art rooms as well as the general passage areas means inevitable contact. My experience in a K-8 school found the exposure of the young to the often inappropriate speech and actions of the older students was unavoidable and unfortunate. The proposal for combined grade interactions on academic projects is appealing however practical demands of class schedules, testing and space are too challenging.

    The modules are working well and in the near future more permanent solutions will be found for the other buildings, however this high school must last for more decades that the current one so it must be founded on the tried and true educational program that has worked well in the past. It is unfair to experiment with our vulnerable middle school aged students and experience regret in the future. Our kids are growing up too quickly as it is and we must do what we can to preserve their younger years.

    Incidentally, the field house, pool and auditorium are vital to preserve since state funding will not replace them.

  7. Our own children (10, 10 and 3) will all be affected deeply by this project. I believe that a grade 7-12 junior/senior high school is the best option for the town as a whole. Much will depend on the final design, in terms of how well the junior students are kept apart from the senior students. But I myself went to a single-site school that ran from grades 6-12, so I have seen it work.

  8. Not to belabor, Mary, but the Retirement pension liability and the OPED liability are different.

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