For immediate release

NORWOOD – The Town of Norwood would like to share a recap of the decision-making process and progress thus far in planning for a new Coakley Middle School.  

Project Background

In 2017, the Norwood Public Schools completed a district-wide facility study with Ai3 Architects, LLC and consultants to review the existing schools in the district. At the conclusion of the process, which began in 2016, the Coakley Middle School was identified as the school with the most building deficiencies. The school currently serves approximately 800 students in grades 6-8.

Building performance, such as capital repairs needed; functional performance, such as enrollment numbers and possible overcrowding; and educational performance, such as existing learning spaces are the criteria used to evaluate the school buildings. 

The feasibility study noted that the current Coakley building is overcrowded and is in need of additional educational space for general and special education. It was also noted that the school would benefit from hands-on learning spaces, dedicated teacher collaboration spaces, enhanced natural lighting and improved ventilation. 

The 2017 evaluation recommended that a comprehensive renovation and expansion or replacement of the Coakley Middle School be urgently considered as part of the Town’s future planning. 

The Norwood Public Schools submitted a Statement of Interest (SOI) to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), which is the first step in applying for funding assistance for a building project, and was accepted into the MSBA Core Program. Norwood was one of 12 projects selected for the Core program that year. In this program, the MSBA partners with communities to assist in the program development and funding of new school construction or additions/renovations to an existing school. 

Compass Project Management and Ai3 Architects were selected for the proposed Coakley project, both of which worked with the Town on the new Norwood High School project, which was completed in 2011. 

The town was invited to begin the Feasibility Study phase in 2020, a process during which the current building is evaluated and potential solutions are considered. Part of this process is determining whether adding to, renovating or replacing the school building is the best option. Two possible enrollment options were considered for the project: grades 6-8 serving 800 students, or grades 5-8 serving 1,070 students. 

As part of the Feasibility Study, the Town submits a Preliminary Design Program (PDP). The team reviewed possible building sites and the existing building conditions, conducted educational visioning and worked with the district to create the educational program for the project. The PDP evaluates the space necessary to support the district’s education program and identifies potential building sites and layout options. 

Once the PDP is submitted to and approved by the MSBA, the project moves forward to the Preferred Schematic Report (PSR) phase. The short list of options, as well as preliminary cost estimates are developed in this phase. At the end of the phase, a preferred option is selected by the Middle School Building Committee (MSBC) and submitted to the MSBA. 

As part of the PSR, the MSBC selects a preferred site, location, grade configuration and additions/renovations. To select a site, the MSBC identified 10 possible sites for a new school building, and an in-depth analysis of each site’s suitability was conducted. Following an analysis of each site, in January 2021, the existing Coakley Middle School site was chosen through a unanimous vote by the MSBC as the best site option for the project. The site was then further evaluated to determine the optimal building location, which was determined to be grounds behind the current Coakley building.

In July 2021, construction of a new building for grades 5-8 was supported by the MSBC to be the preferred configuration.

Moving fifth grade to the new Coakley building will result in vacated space in each of the district’s five elementary schools, allowing each school to address specific space needs, including having space for dedicated music and art rooms, additional rooms dedicated to special education, and space for teacher collaboration. This configuration will address overcrowding at the elementary schools in the most cost-effective way by reducing the need for additional renovations or detached modular classrooms at each school. 

In August 2021, the MSBA approved the PSR and voted for the town to proceed into the Schematic Design phase which further develops the configuration, building layout and design.

Proposed Building Design

The new building is proposed to be constructed behind the current Coakley building, south of the existing community field. The building will have a four-story academic core and house grades 5-8, with each grade on its own floor. Grades 5-6 will be in a lower school, and grades 7-8 will be in an upper school, both of which will have a dedicated building entrance.

Features of the new building include several outdoor areas to foster collaboration and learning, including rain gardens, outdoor dining areas, reading spaces, art zones, science labs and nature classrooms. Additionally, the new Coakley is designed with a large student common, a 600-seat auditorium with stadium-style seating for school and community use, dedicated collaboration areas for small and large group learning, lab areas to support STEM learning, a 2,000-square-foot adaptive physical education center and bleachers, a multi-use performance technology studio, and a learning commons with independent study and large group collaboration spaces.

The orientation of the building will maximize natural light, and operable windows are designed to control glare and offer natural ventilation. With energy efficiency and sustainability as a focal point, the new Coakley is designed to be 100% electric with a low energy use intensity, achieve net zero energy through solar renewable energy, and is currently on track to receive LEED Gold certification. 

Financial Impact

As part of the partnership with the MSBA, the Town is reimbursed a percentage of the project cost, the amount of which is based on MSBA-determined eligible costs. The remainder of the project cost is fulfilled by the Town. 

At this time, the project is estimated to cost a total of about $150 million, resulting in a current expected town share of approximately $104 million with an MSBA grant (approved on March 2) of up to approximately $46 million. 

A tax impact calculator is located on the project website for residents to learn more about their expected tax impact.

Next Steps

As one of the next steps, the district and MSBA will enter into a Project Funding Agreement, which will detail the project’s scope and budget, along with the conditions under which the district will receive its MSBA grant. 

The project received overwhelming approval at Town Meeting on Monday, March 14. The project now moves on to a ballot vote on Monday, April 4. 

If approved through town votes, the MSBC will move forward with advancing the proposed school design and procure construction bids. Construction would begin in 2023 and the proposed Coakley Middle School would open in the fall of 2025.

For More Information

Educational Videos

Coakley Middle School Project Educational Videos are released periodically and cover various topics relating to the project. Published educational videos can be found here.

Additionally, a video presenting the proposed configurations and design features of the new school can be found here.

Subscribe to Project Updates

An official project website is available at newcmsproject.org. Project information, timelines, documents, project news and more can be found on the website. Community members are also urged to subscribe to the site to receive email alerts when new updates are posted to the website’s news blog.

Additionally, follow the below social media pages for updates: 

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A rendering of the proposed new Coakley Middle School. (Photo courtesy Ai3 Architects, LLC)

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A rendering of the proposed new Coakley Middle School. (Photo courtesy Ai3 Architects, LLC)

Source Google News – Read the original article

Town of Norwood Shares Summary of Proposed Coakley Middle School Building Project Process – John Guilfoil Public Relations LLC

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