A New School: What, When, and How

One project solves overcrowding at all six schools
With one project, we can solve Belmont’s entire overcrowding problem throughout the K-12 district. Through a coordinated “shift” — grades 7-8 to the middle/high school and grade 4 to the Chenery upper elementary school — every building will have the space needed to properly serve our “new normal” enrollment levels.
Why is the 7-12 grade configuration a great educational choice?
This is an exciting opportunity for all Belmont students.

  • Our elementary schools can once again become true neighborhood schools, with every child attending their zoned school, and where they can walk to school with their neighborhood friends.
  • Our 4th through 6th graders can remain in an elementary-style setting for longer with an age-appropriate cohort. These 9-12 year old children will remain younger by delaying entry to middle school.
  • 7th and 8th graders will benefit from access to resources previously unavailable to them, in a school that is appropriately designed for the curriculum that is now expected of them.
  • And all children will benefit from a school without overcrowding.

Middle school principal Mike McAllister explained how the 7-12 grade configuration will create a better experience for students by eliminating the “double whammy” students suffer when they experience more than one simultaneous major transition. Today, fifth graders move to a new building AND change to a two teacher model – two transitions. Ninth graders also move to a new building AND graduate from the team-teaching model – again, two transitions. With the new school configurations, students will experience only one transition per year. Student stress will be reduced and student learning will benefit.

How does this address the new education standards?
Today’s curriculum standards emphasize real-world problem solving, project-based learning, multiple forms of communication, and collaboration and leadership. A building designed for these new standards adapts to the needs of teaching and learning.

  • One day, students work in small teams.
  • Another day, the class engages in a round table discussion.
  • The next week, there could be a multi-class, interdisciplinary simulation requiring combined rooms to hold a larger group of students.

Just as teaching and learning have dramatically changed in the last 50 years, it will likely change as much if not more in the next 50 years. Flexibility allows our building to adapt to future, unanticipated needs.

What is the timeline and construction plan?
Construction for the high school wing will begin summer 2019. The old high school will remain operational while the high school wing is built. In September 2021, the high school will move into the new wing.

Construction for the middle school wing will begin summer 2021. In September 2023, the middle school will move into the new wing.

The phasing of the construction project is designed to minimize disruption to students and to the community, as well as limiting costs.

  • The high school will remain operational throughout construction. The district will not need to invest in scores of modular classrooms to use as swing space during construction.
  • During construction of the high school wing, all school personnel will enter from the east side of campus, and all construction activity from the west. During construction of the middle school wing, it flips – the school uses the west entrance and construction crews use the east.
  • This two phase construction plan would not be possible if we had a renovation-focused strategy – which would lead to more disruption, more time, and more cost.
  • Most important, this approach increases the safety of the children on the campus.
How does the new school benefit the rest of the community?
Outside of school hours, the new building will be heavily used by the entire Belmont community. The auditorium, gyms, pool, weight room, cafeteria, library, art and music rooms — all accessible in the “public” section of the building — can be used for civic purposes, Belmont non-profits, and community programming.
The new school is a combination of renovation and addition.

  • The design preserves athletic facilities – the field house and pool – as well as the turf football field.
  • The high school classrooms and shared spaces will be replaced. A detailed analysis of the building revealed that the cost to renovate those parts of the building is comparable to the cost to build new, and the result wouldn’t function as well for teaching and learning.
  • A new middle school wing will create an appropriately-sized facility for 7th and 8th graders, who are very overcrowded at the current middle school. In addition, the middle school curriculum can take advantage of unique facilities at the high school building which will enhance the educational program.

This “two schools in one” approach serves Belmont’s children well and has significant advantages over our current model.