By the standards of most hotly debated issues, a crowd of 100 or so people spread throughout the Winthrop high auditorium on a Wednesday night, does not appear to be a big turnout, especially since the topic was the process for determining the feasibility of a new high school building in Winthrop in the next year or so.
However, School Building Assistance Committee members and members of the Town Council, School Committee and school administration that were on hand, seemed satisfied that the July 18 meeting at WHS was a good first step.
Superintendent John Macero addressed the crowd at the beginning of the meeting and explained the purpose of the public input session and essentially acted as moderator for the discussion that followed.
However, it was clear early on that the committee members, administrators and architects in the room were there more to listen, than to provide concrete answers.
More than a dozen local resident rose to offer their opinions on a variety of subjects related to the project, including whether the school should be a middle/high school combination or just a high school, where the new building could be located and how the committees might find ways to attract more funding to the project to include at least some reimbursement for new athletic fields, etc.
In the end, it was clear that the majority of the people who showed up last week were pro-new school.
According to Macero, the goal of the public input meetings, which are required by the Massachusetts School Building Administration (Mass. SBA), are to identify what residents of the community would like to see in their school, so that those items can be assimilated into a separately organized school district education plan. Once established the two visions for a new school will help the architects develop a building that will meet the community’s needs in the most cost-effective manner possible.
Representatives of the town’s building designer, HMFH Architects, who was assigned to the district by the Mass. SBA, and the school district’s Owners’ Project Manager, Miriam Williams, did take questions from the audience and tried to outline how the school design process will play out. However, they were more interested in what the crowd had to say.
According to the designers and the OPM, the design and use of any proposed new building, at this point is still very much to be determined, as is the proposed location of the building. They did allow that the town had previously narrowed the possible location of the school. However, neither of those sites will necessarily be the final location chosen for a proposed new school.
All such decisions will be driven by the findings of the feasibility study, which HMFH is currently collecting data and input to complete.
At the close of the meeting, Superintendent Macero noted that additional meeting will be held over the course of the next several weeks, as HMFH attempts to get as much community input as it can on, what the new school building should look like and who it should serve.