Reading Massachusetts Education

School Building Projects: Section being updated / is a work in progress (though there is still a great deal of useful, relevant information here).

For the most current information on the passage of overrides in Reading, the scheduled demolition of RMHS and the construction of the new schools, please visit the news section.

---- Reading Memorial High School (RMHS) ----

06/04/03 - The 05/27/03 Design Partnership of Cambridge version of RMHS (Reading Memorial High School) demolition / renovation / addition project was approved by Reading School Committee Tuesday 05/27/03 for submittal to the Department of Education School Building Assistance (SBA). This latest version differs markedly from the Flansburgh & Associates RMHS plans submitted to SBA on December 1, 2002 and the Flansburgh $54 million Option 3 version approved by the January 2003 Town Meeting and the voters in February 2003. Like the recently "renovated" Parker Middle School, nearly all RMHS classrooms, including the science labs, will have only one egress (doorway), raising serious safety concerns if the sole egress were to be blocked. The new high school plans call for conversion to gas heat.

rmhs_certificate_of_inspection_1990.pdf - Yearly inspection report reveals that RMHS has a 2100 capacity of students and staff, 85 classrooms, 2 recitation rooms, 14 laboratories and 35 "other" spaces. The gymnasium (Girl's Gym) has a capacity of 500, the Main Cafeteria 450 and the smaller cafeteria, the Common's, 375 occupants. The auditorium is by far the largest structure with a capacity of 800 in the main hall, 300 in the gallery (balcony) and 190 on stage. The Field House has a seating capacity of 2200. The Stadium North bleachers have a capacity of 1280 and Stadium South a capacity of 1920 people.

Current plans call for all of the 1953 school to be demolished, along with some of the 1970s addition. The remaining areas will be gutted, reconfigured and a new 4 story addition constructed. The capacity of the $54.9 million "renovation" will then be 1400 occupants, actually making Reading's High School a significantly smaller school.


Reading's 12/01/02 SBA RMHS Submission packet notifies School Building Assistance of Reading's "intent" to file plans in June 2003 for a construction/ renovation of Reading Memorial High School (see "letter of intent"(page 8). RMHS is NOT "already on the list" for reimbursement.

In the Long-range Plan (see pages 11-13) included in the 12/01/02 submission, Superintendent Harutunian describes the RMHS project as a "capacity expansion" to just under 1400 students. Note Architect Robert Peirce's statement in the accompanying Inventory of Existing Space (page 16) that RMHS current building capacity is only 1299 students (though RMHS was built for 2000)! In reality, RMHS has ample space (in excess of 100,000 sq. feet) for phasing, is not overcrowded and is structurally sound.

Historic Value

Feasibility Studies

Frequently Asked Questions

High School Project Goes Out To Bid (Advocate Article, 02/06/03) - Bids are due same day as funding may or may not be approved at February 25, 2003 Special Town Election.

2002 Picture Tour - .pdf

Special Town Meeting Warrant, January 13, 2003 [.pdf document, 2.09 MB]

---- New Elementary School ----

Reading didn't build it, can't afford it and the students still are not coming (enrollment projections are down).

Central Register Postings, General Contract, 01/29/03 and 02/05/03

---- Alice Barrows Elementary School ----

06/04/03 - A new, different design by Flansburgh & Associates has surfaced for the Barrows Elementary School. Changes include extensive reconfiguring of existing space, a new media wing that eliminates the circle drive entrance, inadequate parking and a maze of convoluted routes for handicapped students to reach core facilities. This 05/21/03 Barrows Additions and Alterations version, along with its 05/22/03 site plan, differs greatly from the Spring 2000 Barrows plans approved by SBA and the January 2003 revised plans used to persuade voters in February 2003 to approve an additional $2.5 million for the two elementary projects. The layout of the Barrows School "as is" shines in comparison to these everchanging Flansburgh versions. What is the real goal here: to meet the needs of the Town of Reading or to create increasingly complex and costly designs for the benefit of Flansburgh Associates?

Since the Reading School Building Committee dissolved itself at the April 2003 Town Meeting and no public session School Committee discussions have occurred during the development of these latest school plans, exactly who has been overseeing and authorizing these changes?

How many other communities, like Reading, conduct the business of overseeing multi-million dollar school projects completely behind closed doors?

Indeed, as contractors forge ahead with the unnecessary new elementary school off Sunset Rock/ Dividence Rd., one might also wonder how those plans have changed since SBA put it "on the list." One can only imagine...

barrows_certificate_of_inspection_1990.pdf - This annual inspection by the Reading Building Inspector shows the capacity of the Barrows School (560 occupants) before the proposed renovation / addition.

The cafeteria capacity is 200 for dining, 400 for assembly and 50 on stage. The gymnasium capacity is 210 for assembly (seated) and 105 for gym classes. Barrows is listed as having 15 classrooms with 12 other rooms (the library was later expanded into an adjacent classroom, reducing the number of classroms to 14 and creating a core library that more than meets State library requirements in the event that additional classrooms are added to Barrows).

Later, 4 portable classrooms were moved to Barrows. Children were bussed from across Reading for kindergarten and from other communities to Barrows for Developmental Learning Center (DLC) classes as part of the SEEM Collaborative.

Submissions to SBA, 03/01/00 - Schematic drawings and approvals of Barrows project.

Town Meeting approvals for Barrows project to be funded through Town operating budget ($6,585,000 at Special Town Meeting 12/10/98 and another $515,000 at Annual Town Meeting 4/24/00).

02/03/03 Revised Plan #5 - Floor plans reflect the reduction of three classrooms from what was supported by voters and submitted to School Building Assistance to qualify for reimbursement. Yet, at Special Town Meeting 01/13/03, Flansburgh's Sid Bowen stated that the downsizing of the Barrows Project square footage did not affect the number of classrooms [.mp3 audio, 414 KB]. Changes in the 02/03/03 version of the Barrows renovation include the replacement of a planned music room with a music area in the back of the cafeteria stage and the elimination of three classrooms on the second floor, across from new gym.

Existing Barrows School layout, including the adjacent connected Kindergarten portables and Grade 1 and 3 portables. - nice computers!

---- Killam Elementary School ----

Killam_certificate_of_inspection_1990.pdf - Yearly inspection report reflects a capacity for Killam of 825 occupants. There are 27 classrooms and 12 other rooms. The cafeteria has a dining capacity of 300, a seated capacity of 400 and the stage can hold 50. These numbers do not include the later changes to a courtyard area. Certificate on the gym was not made available at that time.

---- Coolidge Middle School ----

---- Parker Middle School ----

---- Birch Meadow Elementary School ----

1996 Birch Meadow Informational Profile - In 1995, Birch Meadow added 5 new classrooms and underwent major renovations to the library media center, administration areas and specialist areas. Two portable classrooms were in use to support their increased enrollments. In 1996, the enrollment was 604 students and average class size was 23 students. Nowhere in this 1996 brochure is the school described as "crowded."

As of October 1, 2002, Birch Meadow has 539 students occupying the same space as in 1996.

---- Joshua Eaton Elementary ----


---- Flansburgh Associates, Inc. ----

RMHS $54 million Option 3 proposal for demolition / renovation / construction (Flansburgh 10/08/02 Review of Existing Conditions Report / Third RMHS Feasiblity Study Plus Schematic Design), design of pending New Elementary School and Barrows renovations. Gaining Town Approval - Flansburgh Associates' services for gaining community support for school building projects. FAI does more than design buildings.

Executed Flansburgh contract for RMHS 08/07/02 Schematic (& Feasibility Study) was not released until Dec. 18, 2002, at the request of SC member Russo. Contract was unavailable through the School Building Committee and released to SC member Russo by the School Superintendent.

Flansburgh's 07/24/02 Reading Memorial High School Study and Schematic Design Work Plan - Task #9: Final Study Report still has not yet been completed and / or made public. The Final Report should have been available for a Reading 01/13/03 Town Meeting and Architect RFP's for final design (due February 25, 2003 - the day of Reading's Special Election to fund the project).

---- Strekalovsky and Hoit (S&H) ----

Coolidge renovation / addition, Second RMHS Feasibility Study, April 13, 2000

---- Drummey, Rosane & Anderson (DRA) ----

First RMHS Feasibility Study, Feb. 21, 1997

---- Design Partnership of Cambridge (TDPC) ----

Joshua Eaton, Birch Meadow, Parker Middle School

Massachusetts has a state school reimbursement system that has encouraged administrators to let buildings fall into disrepair, to tear down structurally sound schools and then overbuild the replacements.

Several factors have encouraged this result. After World War II, the State began its reimbursement program to help communities finance school construction. This legislation has been renewed several times over the years and has become a driving force in determining the kinds of structures that are built - structures often much larger and expensive than needed.

Few communities pass up the opportunity to build more than they need even if overbuilding to follow School Building Assistance requirements wastes time and money in long-term. SBA reforms are long overdue (Newton Tab 01/03/00).

Exceptions: Stoughton installed permanent modular classrooms at their own expense to address enrollment needs (SBA would reimburse if the same modulars were used temporarily during construction of an expensive but unnecessary project). Chilmark on Martha's Vineyard built a $3.6 million facility without state funds and no feature built to specifically meet SBA requirements.Chilmark had appropriate core facilities already available in nearby existing community spaces but SBA insisted they build a bigger school if they wanted State funds. Chilmark built only what they needed and what they could afford.


Please right-click, "Save Target As" to download the linked files on this page.

Reading School Building Committee

Keeping the option of constructing a new high school on the table could cause confusion in the community and lead to allegations that the School Committee is considering a plan that is not cost effective....there is no real need to tear down the existing high school since it is structurally sound (SBC Chair Graham, Advocate 04/15/99).

The Reading School Projects Documentation Archive - Established to give citizens of Reading, Massachusetts (and beyond) access to hard-to-find public information and documentation.

School Building Assistance - SBA - Massachusetts Department of Education Christine Lynch Deposition [.pdf download, 9.60 MB] - Provides insight into the process of bringing a school project before SBA for funding--the "real deal" versus what all too often is claimed to be SBA requirements. The Lynch deposition was given in conjunction with the 21 Taxpayer Complaint over Reading's failure to follow the bid laws in hiring architect Earl R. Flansburgh & Associates (now FAI) for elementary school projects.

Moody's drops town rating. Reading Advocate, 01/09/03 [.pdf, 58.2 KB]

SBA Final Audit Procedures, Nov. 2001 - When a school construction project is completed, this final audit process determines what of the final costs of construction will be considered reimburseable by the State. Sometimes the State determines that certain expenses submitted for the project do not meet these requirements and will not be reimburseable. It is imperative that communities be mindful of these Final Audit Procedures when they are planning projects. Otherwise, a community could be "surprised" years later with reduced funding, as occurred recently with $130,000 for Reading's Parker Middle School Project (Advocate 01/09/03).