Waltham plans to expand bilingual school for former WHS building

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The debate over the future of the current Waltham High School building at 617 Lexington Street has led to two likely potential outcomes according to Waltham School Superintendent Brian Reagan.

Both options move the bilingual school, located in the former South Middle School at 510 Moody St. to Lexington Street and expand the curriculum from K-5 to K-8; or move McDevitt Middle School to Lexington Street to create a single college campus with Kennedy Middle School.

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Language school

Reagan said his personal preference would be to move the bilingual school, allowing the program to grow. The program started with just one kindergarten class in 2015, but has added a new class each year and is now a full K-5 program.

Next year, children graduating from the bilingual school will be part of Kennedy Middle School, but Reagan said that was a short-term solution and that in the long term, students would still be in a designated bilingual school until to the eighth class.

“Dual language has outgrown that space; we would be able to expand it to four different sections at each grade level, instead of two,” Reagan said. “The building, quite frankly, isn’t even a school department building, it’s owned by the city and we’re temporarily renting space there right now.”

McDevitt

The benefits of moving McDevitt, which Reagan said was a somewhat older idea, would be the creation of a single college campus, allowing students to take advantage of athletic facilities (both Kennedy Field and Fields in grass behind 617 Lexington St.) while making it easier to move shared staff from school to school.

“It’s easier to have staff shared between the two schools, with some of our staff, like our fine arts and performing arts teachers, they travel from school to school now, and that would be easier for them,” Reagan said.

Reagan also added that if McDevitt were to be moved, the bilingual school could move to McDevitt. However, this would come with additional renovations at McDevitt, which would need to be adjusted in some areas to be a school for young children.

“If we move dual language, we would only have to make adjustments to one building, 617 Lexington Street. If we move McDevitt, we would need to make adjustments to 617 and McDevitt to get it ready for students. of elementary school,” Reagan mentioned.

Renovation of the old building needed

Anything ending up in the old high school would likely mean renovations to the property, but Reagan said adjusting the 617 Lexington Street location for a college wouldn’t be as costly as a renovation for a new high school. , which was ruled out as a possibility years ago and led to the construction of the new high school.

“We have our professional and CTE programs, these stores alone, just bringing these spaces up to modern standards in this building would be so difficult. We wouldn’t have to do it to the same degree,” Reagan said. “In general, it is fair to say that building or renovating at the level of a primary school or a middle school costs less than building a high school. You can also build it differently, going through different phases and bringing the students in waves, you can spend it that way and the project is easier to manage.”

Reagan said he believes the school committee would like to make a decision in the first half of 2022, which would lead to further exploration of the possibilities of moving the bilingual school or moving McDevitt to the 617 Lexington Street location. . . Students aren’t expected to move into the new high school until 2024, giving the city more time to figure out exactly what will happen to the site of the old high school.

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