Once construction of the new West El is finished, the existing building will be demolished, making way for the rest of the site work, which will include sports fields, play structures, the driveway, parking area, and landscaping.
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The new West Elementary and Shawsheen Pre-K School will support grades PreK-5 with an enrollment of 130 PreK Students and 925 K-5 students. The building will be located to the west and behind the current West El and will have a total of 191,028 gross square feet. The site measures 33.99 acres and is made up of 5 contiguous lots, some of which are heavily wooded with numerous wetlands. The site development includes approximately 266 dedicated parking spaces, play structures, open field play and paved play areas and two ball fields. Dedicated bus lanes and parent drop off/pick up are designed to alleviate the current traffic congestion and safety concerns. The building is being designed as an all-electric building, to achieve Net Zero Ready when open.
The plan configuration for the new facility is made up of three classroom wings and a gymnasium wing organized around a central core that contains shared program spaces serving the school. The building features a mix of single story high-bay spaces for the Music and PE curriculums, two story construction incorporating the main entry and Media Center as well as the Shawsheen Pre-K wing, and three-story construction that incorporates all the K-4 grade level classroom spaces in two three-story wings with the 5th grade classrooms oriented around a roof garden with greenhouse on the third floor of the central core.
The main West El entry flows into a lobby area that opens to the Cafetorium, and is flanked by the main administration area, offering a passive view of students and visitors as they pass through the security vestibule upon entry. The Gymnasium and associated spaces are located north of the Cafetorium. Music classrooms are located directly behind the Cafetorium Platform to allow them to function in a green room capacity, and art spaces are located on the first floor as part of one of the two three-story academic wings. The media center is positioned on the second floor, just above the main entrance and administration area.
The two-story Shawsheen Pre-K wing is connected to the K-5 program spaces through a small and transparent hallway, providing desired autonomy for the program which is currently located in a different building in a different area of Town. The Pre-K wing has its own main entrance and admin area, which will simplify the circulation within the site and provide the Pre-K program with its own sense of identity.
Over the past decades, the delivery of K-5 education has changed significantly. Spaces to accommodate new instructional methodologies are being incorporated into the design of the new school. Larger classrooms that align with MSBA’s recommended size will enable teachers to provide more differentiated learning activities and to group students flexibly to promote their engagement. The larger classrooms will also accommodate the space-intensive FOSS science curriculum and the classroom libraries that are essential to the district’s integrated approach to literacy and social studies.
The new school will include physical accessibility of all spaces and equipment, complementing the teachers’ use of universal design for learning strategies that provide access to the curriculum for all students. Other features will include spaces for teacher collaboration, classroom furnishings that allow for flexible use—particularly for project-based learning and team teaching, venues to display student work, two makerspaces to promote authentic learning, and school-wide integration of technology.
To support the development of smaller learning communities, each grade’s classrooms (K-5) will cluster around its own Neighborhood Commons. Each commons will be furnished with comfortable seating and tables that students can rearrange during the day to fit their needs for collaborative work. This Neighborhood Commons approach will ensure that students are known well by several peers and adults who work closely with them, thereby supporting social-emotional growth. The Commons will also promote students’ development of independence and self-directed learning. This design element is similar to the one implemented at Bancroft Elementary School.
The BRIDGE program for students on the autism spectrum will have large classrooms, each with a bathroom and adjacent breakout area. A separate sensory room will be provided. All classrooms will give special attention to lighting, color, auditory conditions, visual distractions, and safety factors. Spaces dedicated to specific purposes will include an expanded medical suite; a multipurpose room and a technology-supported fitness room, both equipped for PE; a literacy suite for reading intervention; and rooms for speech, occupational, physical, and behavior therapy. There will also be a number of small instruction areas, plus offices for psychologists, social workers, coaches, and others whose services require confidentiality.
The enlarged and appropriately outfitted facility will reduce the inordinate amount of time that administrators must now devote each day to juggling the schedule and room assignments for itinerant support staff and special activities. As proposed, the new school will also have enhanced security features such as electronic door monitoring and door locks.
By physically co-locating the Shawsheen Pre-K program and the West K-5 facility, the transition of preschool BRIDGE students to West El will be smoother and more effective. Staff from both programs, especially teachers and therapists, will have opportunities to confer with each other and observe each other’s classrooms to ensure that each student entering West El is provided with the necessary supports from day one. The provision of instruction and related services for these children with extensive needs can become seamless from preschool to elementary school. In addition, the delivery of services by itinerant staff will be made more efficient by the programs’ physical proximity.
The proposed special education preschool wing will include spaces and features specifically designed to address the special needs of this preschool population. The spaces/features include a sensory-friendly adaptive PE room, a sensory therapy room, an occupational therapy room, and a physical therapy room—all with equipment that is size-appropriate for preschoolers. It also will include a nurse’s clinic with an accessible bathroom. On two levels as opposed to the current Shawsheen, which was built in 1923 and has five levels, the new Shawsheen will facilitate faster and safer movement of students among the special service areas.
The preschool will have its own entrance off the parking lot. The preschool wing will also include a waiting room for families and therapy space to serve the 40-50 preschool students who receive only speech and language therapy by appointment only.
The current Shawsheen Preschool has a substantial number of students in the PreK BRIDGE program who move into West’s BRIDGE program and other special education programs at kindergarten age. Connecting the PreK program to the West Elementary facility will provide a consistent and supportive environment over a period of several years and limit disruption for this particular group of students when they transition to the elementary program. It will also enable efficiency in special education service delivery among staff who can serve students PreK to grade 5.
Construction activities will begin in April 2022. During the April school vacation, temporary construction fencing will be placed on the western portion of the site where the playing fields currently are located. Also, at this time, a contractor access road will be built on the northern portion of the site where construction vehicles will enter and exit the site from Beacon Street. From this time until the end of the school year, preliminary site preparation work will take place.
Immediately following the end of the school year in June 2022, full construction activities will begin.
At the beginning of the 2022/2023 school year in August 2022, family drop-off and pick-up will take place at a single-entry point at the southwest corner of the current West El. Families will continue to enter the site from the same location on Beacon Street as they do now, but will exit the site onto High Plain Road. Bus drop-off and pick-up will continue in its current fashion at the semi-circle off Beacon Street. New parking areas will be established during the construction period but there will be no loss of total parking spaces.
Construction vehicles will approach the site from the north and will enter through a new temporary construction driveway to be built on the northern side of West Elementary on Beacon Street. They will exit from the same driveway and proceed to the north. The travel route to the site will be via Rte. 495, to Route 28, to Mt. Vernon Street, to Beacon Street, and reverse upon exiting the site.
We will be using numerous methods to keep families, staff, neighbors, and others aware of changes in traffic circulation. Among others, these methods may include our website, mailings, emails, social media, and public meetings. See FAQ #19, below, for further discussion on getting more information about the project.
Site work may be performed Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. If exceptions to these hours are needed, approval is required, and advanced notice will be provided. Business hours for administrative staff will be Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Also, it should be noted that construction site vehicles will not enter or exit the site during the time of school drop-off from 8:15 a.m. - 9:15 a.m. and school pick-up from 3:00 p.m. - 4:15 p.m. on school days.
Yes. The two play areas behind the school, one of which currently serve grades 2 & 3 and the other grades 4 & 5, will be relocated during construction. New play areas will be established to the south of the school near the current K & 1 play area and in front of the school.
The two baseball/softball fields and the soccer fields behind the current West El will no longer be available as of spring recess in April 2022. When construction is complete in the fall of 2025, there will be two new turf baseball/softball and soccer fields at the front of the site where the current West El is located.
We are working with the construction manager, Gilbane Building Company, to minimize disruptions to the operation of the current West El during construction. Gilbane will be limiting its site activities during morning drop off and afternoon pick-up.
Moreover, the construction process will be of great interest to the students, and thus some building concepts will be incorporated into the curriculum where appropriate. One or two members of the engineering/design team may be invited to explain the project to students in grades 4 and 5 and to answer their questions. Watching the new school rise from the earth may spark some students’ interest in exploring engineering careers. Other students may find inspiration for authentic learning projects or topics for capstone projects.
We expect that the new West El will welcome its first students at the beginning of the 2024/2025 school year, in late August/early September of 2024. The new Shawsheen Preschool is expected to open during the summer of 2025. The new Shawsheen will not open at the same time as the new West El in order to allow demolition of the existing West El and the establishment of new playing fields and parking areas to be completed during the 2024/2025 school year and to ensure a smooth transition to the new Shawsheen for our youngest learners.
The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) divides its process into eight separate modules. We completed Module 5, Funding the Project, in the summer of 2021 when Andover voters approved project funding at the 2021 Annual Town Meeting and at the polls. In addition, the West Elementary/Shawsheen Preschool Building Committee authorized the extension of contracts for the Owners’ Project Manager (PMA Consultants) and the architect (SMMA) and authorized the entry of a contract with Gilbane Building Company as the construction manager. The Town also entered into a final Project Funding Agreement with (MSBA) which sets the terms for reimbursement by MSBA of a portion of approved project costs.
The project is now in Module 6 of the MSBA process, the detailed design phase. We submitted a detailed design report to the MSBA in October of 2021. This will be followed by the preparation and submittal of construction documents – a 60% package in February of 2022, a 90% package in April of 2022, and then a 100% package in July of 2022, the last of which will allow Gilbane to move forward with construction bids and awards.
We expect to enter Module 7, construction, in the spring/summer of 2022, and to complete the project, Module 8, in the fall of 2025.
The total project budget, as approved by Andover voters, is $151,661,968. Andover is eligible for a maximum grant from the MSBA of $38,442,820 (25.35% of total project costs), which makes the anticipated Town share $113,219,148 (74.65% of total project costs). As the design documents are being prepared, costs are evaluated by two sets of estimators. The project remains on budget at this time (November of 2021), despite fluctuating markets for various building materials. If necessary to remain on budget, decisions will be made as the project progresses to modify the design and/or construction materials.
Andover’s share of project expenses is being funded through what is referred to as a debt exclusion to Proposition 2 ½. This debt exclusion was approved by Andover voters at the June 5, 2021, Annual Town Meeting and at the polls on June 15, 2021. With this debt exclusion, there will be an increase in property taxes in excess of the limits in Proposition 2 ½ for the 30-year term of the borrowing to fund the project. The borrowing for the West El/Shawsheen project is estimated to result in a tax increase of $24.84 on the average annual single family tax bill in Fiscal Year 2023; $213.27 in Fiscal Year 2024; and $401.71 in Fiscal Year 2025 and for the remaining years of borrowing.
Yes. A redistricting plan will be developed as the West Elementary project nears completion and likely will go into effect at the beginning of the 2025-2026 school year. As part of its enrollment projections, MSBA understands that the district will need to redraw elementary school attendance areas to address current and projected overcrowding at several of the district’s other elementary schools. Several APS elementary schools are currently at capacity, requiring the conversion of non-instructional spaces to instructional purposes to support student needs. Students will be redistricted to the new West Elementary in order to relieve the overcrowding at the other four elementary schools. The redistricting will also enable us to eliminate Sanborn Elementary School’s modular classrooms, which are well beyond the end of their useful life.
There are numerous definitions of “Net Zero Ready” but generally it is taken to mean that all of a facility’s energy needs can be obtained from a combination of on-site and off-site renewable sources. The new West El will be an all-electric facility. Also, it has been designed and will be constructed so that solar panels can be installed both on the roof and in the parking areas. Thus, the new school is properly characterized as being “Net Zero Ready.”
The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), the Town’s partner in this project and which is funding about 25% of the overall costs, will not pay for the installation of solar panels. However, they have agreed to a roof design that can accept solar panels if the Town decides to pursue such a project. Similarly, the necessary conduits will be installed in the parking areas so that solar awnings could be installed if the Town decides to pursue that approach.
This has not yet been determined. Roof-top solar panels are estimated to be capable of supplying about 24% of the school’s energy needs and parking lot solar canopies are estimated to be capable of supplying about 52% of the school’s energy needs. The specific combination of on-site and off-site sources will be determined as construction of the new school gets closer to completion and will be based on a combination of complex technical, economic, and legal factors. Nevertheless, it is anticipated that at least some of the school’s energy needs will come from on-site.
Ownership and management of the aging Shawsheen building and the site would revert to the Town of Andover. The school’s long history has contributed to the building’s being viewed as a beloved town building and landmark. An architect for historic properties concluded that the building is sound and could be repurposed. Possible suggested uses include senior housing, offices, small condos, town document storage or other community purposes.
The Owner’s Project Manager is PMA Consultants, LLC [Braintree, MA].
The project Architect/Designer is SMMA (Symmes Maini & McKee Associates) [Cambridge, MA].
The construction manager is Gilbane Building Company [Boston, MA].
School Committee Chairperson
School Committee Member
Director of Facilities
APS Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Administration
Town Finance Director
Member, West Elementary Principal
Member, Town Resident, Former West Elementary Principal
Member, Shawsheen Early Childhood Coordinator
Member, APS Program Head for Intensive Programs
Member, Town Resident, Construction Project Executive
Member, Town Resident, Construction Director of Improvement & Innovation
Member, Town Resident, Independent Design Consultant
Member, Town Resident, Architect (focus: K-12 public schools)
Member, Town Resident, Real Estate Attorney, Chair of AHS Facility Study Committee, Chair of Bancroft Elementary School Building Committee
We are planning to conduct robust outreach using a variety of communication methods to get timely and relevant information to all those who have an interest in or who may be impacted by this project: West El and Shawsheen parents, guardians, and staff; neighbors; the broader Andover school community; and the Andover community at large. Up-to-date information is posted on the website of the West Elementary School Building Committee: http://www.aps1.net/2208/West-Elementary-Shawsheen-Preschool-Buil. This site also has an abundance of archived information, such as the minutes of past School Building Committee meetings and reports from the various consultants.
Meetings of the School Building Committee are live streamed and archived on Andover TV and may be watched on Comcast 99 and Verizon 43. Meetings are open to the public and notifications are posted to the Town of Andover and Andover Public Schools websites.
Any questions or concerns about the project can be sent by email to the chairperson of the Building Committee, Joel Blumstein, at: firstname.lastname@example.org