WHS science wing on board’s list

WESTFIELD The School Committee Monday night initiated the process to seek state funding for an expansion of the science facilities at Westfield High School.
The board voted to submit a statement of interest (SOI) to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) for construction of a new science wing, through an alternate funding program.
Frank Maher, director of operations, maintenance and food services, said the MSBA has established a grant program to meet the needs of districts which would not otherwise qualify, because their buildings do not meet any other criterion for MSBA funding.
“I’m asking the board’s permission to file a SOI with the MSBA for this $60 million competitive grant,” Maher said. “This is an opportunity to invest in an otherwise sound building. The proposed wing would have a combination of 14 classrooms and labs, with a construction costs estimate at between $5.7 and $6 million.”
Mayor Daniel M. Knapik, who also serves as chairman of the School Committee by virtue of his elective office, said that he requested Maher to investigate the MSBA program, after learning about it while meeting with MSBA officials earlier this year on the city’s proposed elementary school.
“This program is a collaboration of architects, commercial entities and the MSBA to address a unique need of districts with sound buildings, but outdated lab facilities,” Knapik said. “The concept is to put those facilities outside the building. A number of high schools in the Commonwealth fit that need. This is a cost-effective way to address that need.”
WHS Principal Ray Broderick said the age of the existing building, which is structurally sound, has created safety concerns because of the outdated laboratory facilities.
Those concerns include the safety hoods, air handling (HVAC) systems and ventilation in the labs.
“We’ve had to shut all of the gas lines into those rooms off, because of safety issues, and the students are now using hot plates,” Broderick said. “There are also safety issues related to the size of the students population using those facilities, and the square footage.
“We can’t schedule more science classes because we don’t have the facilities,” Broderick said. “It also affects the type of lab a teacher can have. The teachers have to set up for a one-class-period lab because the labs are used for classes each period. You can’t leave a lab or experiment set up for the next day.”
That lack of flexibility limits laboratory experiments and processes to those that can be done quickly and eliminates any process that may require several days.
The MSBA has established a model science wing that meets the needs of districts and is very flexible.
“”In the model lab, everything is movable and can be put into several configurations,” Broderick said. “In our existing labs, every thing is fixed, so there is no flexibility about how you configure that space” to meet education needs.
The School Committee approved the SOI with a unanimous vote. The grant request, which will reimburse the city for about 60 percent of the project cost, will also have to be approved by the City Council.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top