New Rundlett design moves ahead

  • Robert Williams, associate with HMFH Architects, talks about one of five site plan options for a new school to replace Rundlett Middle School in Concord during a meeting at Rundlett on Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • Rundlett Middle School, looking down a hallway of sixth-grade classrooms on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • Superintendent Terri Forsten speaks to the crowd of about 45 people at the start of a visioning session for the future of Rundlett Middle School at the aging school Tuesday, March 7, 2017. NICK REID

Monitor staff
Published: 4/13/2021 4:59:13 PM

The Concord School District is reviving its plan to build a new Rundlett Middle School building, and is moving ahead with the first step in the design process.

During its April meeting, the Concord School Board voted unanimously to move ahead with schematic design, bringing in an outside firm to work with the district to plan what the new building will look like, where it will be located and what grades the school will hold, among other things. The professional planning services could cost up to $200,000, which will be taken from the facilities and renovation trust fund.

“I know the Capital Facilities Committee is very eager to get this underway,” said board member Danielle Smith, who chairs the committee. “We realize that we can’t make those decisions by ourselves by a bubble, we really need community input, we need some professional input.”

Rundlett was built in 1957 to be a junior high school, and became a middle school in the late 1990s, according to Matt Cashman, director of facilities and planning, who presented to the school board’s Capital Facilities and Finance committees on March 17.

District officials have been considering rebuilding the school since 2016, when it was decided that the building’s needs – repairs to the roof, floors and bathrooms, plumbing, HVAC system and fire alarm system – were extensive enough to consider an alternative.

The district is considering a partnership with the Concord YMCA, an organization that is also in search of new location, to share facilities. According to early design visioning that took place in 2017, goals for the building include a gym, theater, courtyard, flexible classrooms and dining area, maker space and potentially a pool.

The rebuild, including all the desired amenities suggested during the brainstorming sessions, is estimated to cost $90 million, according to early calculations by business administrator Jack Dunn. About $36 million of that amount could potentially be covered by state building aid, leaving $54 million for the district to fund alone.

District officials are looking at several potential locations for the new school, including two the district already own: the current 23-acre Rundlett Middle School and Abbott Downing School site on South Street, and a 59-acre parcel behind Mill Brook School on Curtisville Road.

Both sites are appealing to administrators cost-wise, because no money needs to be spent acquiring property. But a 2017 feasibility study showed the South Street site could be a tight fit, especially with the need for athletic fields and the potential addition of a YMCA facility on the property.

“If there is any type of partnership, that would be questionable because of limited parking that there would be, the fact that that is a residential neighborhood, and we don’t know what kind of concerns would be when you take that kind of a building and back it up to [Springfield Street],” Dunn said at the March 17 meeting.

The wooded Curtisville Road site, which is criss-crossed by Batchelder Mill Road hiking trails, was purchased by the school district in the 1980s as a potential spot for a joint high school and middle school, a plan that never came to fruition. Dunn said the disadvantages of that site include accessibility and lack of existing infrastructure.

The district is also considering site options that they do not currently own, but officials have not spoken about those publicly.

Another decision the district will have to make is whether the new middle school should be for grades 5 to 8 or 6 to 8. The current middle school contains only grades 6 to 8, and grade 5 is considered elementary school.

To start work on the project, the district will need to submit a letter of intent to apply for building aid to the Department of Education by Jan. 1, 2022, and send in a full application by the following July. The Deptartment of Education will rank Concord’s proposed project by priority alongside other projects proposed by other districts. Earliest the aid could be approved is January 2023.

Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.

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