FRAMINGHAM – Earlier this month, the Massachusetts School Building Authority Designer Selection Panel interviewed and identified an architect for the proposed new Fuller Middle School in Framingham. On Sept. 12, the panel ranked OMR Architects as the top finalist. The other finalists were Jonathan Levi Associates and Tappe Associates.
There were 13 members on the Panel, including three from Framingham. Framingham representatives include Superintendent of Schools Bob Tremblay, Town Manager Bob Halpin, and Fuller Middle School principal Jose Duarte.
The panel had ranked OMR Architects as their #1 choice by one point higher than Jonathan Levi Associates, said Framingham School Building Committee Chair Ed Gotgart.
A contract was approved for $545,000 for design services with Jonathan Levi Associates of Cambridge this week.
Framingham’s delegation had ranked Jonathan Levi Associates as their #1 choice and OMR Architects as their #2 choice.
But since the vote, OMR Architect’s founding principal architect announced his retirement, and the firm notified the Massachusetts School Building Authority it will not accept new projects, including the proposed new Fuller Middle School.
So now, Jonathan Levi Associates will be the new architect for the proposed project, said Framingham Superintendent of Schools Bob Tremblay.
The Town of Framingham wants to construct a new middle school on the site of the current Fuller Middle School. The proposed new school would house 630 students. Voters would need to approve the construction costs via a ballot question, possibly as soon as November 2018.
Framingham was happy with all three architectural firms, said Gotgart, who is the Executive Director of Business Operations for the Framingham Public Schools.
In January 2016, the Massachusetts School Building Authority officially voted to begin the process to fund a feasibility study to renovate or replace Fuller Middle School.
In May 2016, the Authority, after rejecting Framingham’s application twice, gave the first major green light for the new Fuller Middle School project.
Fuller Middle School was originally constructed in 1958 as Framingham South High School. The building became Fuller Middle School in the mid 1990s.
Since then there have been several improvements:
- 1995 Roof Replacement
- 2005 Converted heating system from oil to natural gas
- 2005 Replaced boilers
- 2007 Auditorium Improvements
- 2009 Portion of north masonry wall replaced
- 2010 ADA accessible ramp and railings at the main front entrance
- 2013 Warranty roof repair performed
- 2014 ADA ramp installed at rear of building
Even with those improvement, the school has several issues, and the district is facing an enrollment crunch.
Framingham Public Schools has seen incoming kindergarten classes of at 700 students or higher students for the last several years. With the student population growing, the public school district opened the former King Administration Building as an elementary school.
At one point the district was considering purchasing land from the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph on Bethany Road for a new school, but a deal could not be reached. Now, the district is focused on construction of a new school on the site of the current Fuller Middle School.
Earlier this year, the Framingham School Committee approved a “Feasibility Study Agreement.”
In February, the Massachusetts School Building Authority approved that agreement.
Framingham voters could be asked to approve the cost to construct a new middle school as early as November 2018.
A few years ago, the estimated cost for a new Fuller-Farley campus was $48 million.
Gotgart told Source, a new school could cost in the $30 million range, if the town is able to salvage the existing auditorium, cafeteria, and gymnasium. If not, the cost could be anywhere between $40 and $50 million.
Framingham is eligible, if approved by the state, for up to 59 percent reimbursement of cost of the project.
If voters, approve a debt exclusion override vote to increase taxes in November 2018, to construct the new Fuller Middle School, Gotgart said construction could begin in spring 2019, with the school scheduled to open in summer 2020.
In June 2017, the Building Committee hired Symmes Maini & McKee Associates as the Owner’s Project Manager.
The state process for funding a new school is a long and complicated one.
There are more than 8 steps in the eligibility phase, including creating a School Building Committee, which would be responsible to manage the process and oversee the construction of a new middle/elementary school for Framingham, partially funded by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA).
The last time Framingham constructed a school was Framingham High School.
Gotgart said that construction took place while students were in the high school.
He said the goal, at the moment, is to construct the new Fuller Middle School with students in the building.
Gotgart said the architect told the School Building Committee that can be done.
Gotgart said having the students in the building during the construction phase would also save the Town – soon-to-be-a-city money, but also taxpayers money.
It would cost us $2 to $4 million to renovate the former Farley School (located next door to Fuller Middle) to move students into that building.
“It makes no sense to do that, unless the school will be used as a school after the renovations,” said Gotgart. “It makes the most sense to keep the kids where they are.”
The former Farley school is currently a campus of MassBay Community College in Framingham.
The timeline to construct a new Fuller Middle School could change with the change over to a new City form of government.
Under the Town form of government, Selectmen would have voted to place a debt exclusion override on the ballot. Now the decision in 2018, falls to the new 11-member Framingham City Council.
The present timeline still has voters having a say on the construction costs in November 2018, via a ballot question.