AHS project logoEntrance at new AHS, November 2021.

UPDATED Jan. 27: The first wings of the new high school are to open after February break, followed by phase 2 of construction soon after.

To prepare, a second virtual community forum was held Tuesday, Jan. 25. If you missed it, see the ACMi video here:

Replays of the first forum, in December, are available below (scroll down) and on the project's website >> The January forum will cover new information and additional details, including:

What families and students can expect when moving into the new buildings; a preview of what phase 2 construction will entail; and  ample time for questions.

Both forums are available in six languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese and American Sign Language.

ACMi will broadcast the forums live on the Government Channel (Comcast ch. 22, RCN ch. 614, Verizon ch. 26) and recordings will be posted on the AHS project website at www.ahsbuilding.org.

Reported in December

The complete reconstruction of Arlington High School continues on time and slightly under budget, said Jeff Thielman, who led an hourlong community forum and livestream presentation Wednesday, Dec. 15. “This is a very exciting time for Arlington,” said Thielman, chairman of the AHS Building Committee.

See the construction photo gallery >>

The initial planning effort for a new high school began in 2014, and the building committee formed in 2016. The town voted in 2019 to spend $291.4 million to rebuild on the existing AHS site just west of Arlington Center. 

The next important milestones are to begin early next year, with the final touches due in spring 2025 with installation of synthetic turf on the fields. Hardier than grass, it will allow for extended athletic seasons, officials say.

Movement in February

Much of note will happen in February. The last day before the instructional break, Feb. 18, the school will release students from campus at 11:30 a.m. While the students are on break, the adults will make moves from the old building to the new. That will allow many classes to meet for the first time in the new performing-arts wing and in the STEAM wing (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics). Instruction that first day back, Feb. 28, will be on “delayed start” and commence at 11:30 a.m.  

Watch the Dec. 20 forum for abutters broadcast by ACMi:

Principal Architect Lori Cowles of HMFH showed photographs of and described as “stunning” the look for the STEAM wing, including its 17 new science rooms on the upper three floors – “beautiful, highly functional science rooms for the future,” she said. 

Other parts of the performing arts wing (i.e., band and chorus rooms) are expected to be open Feb 28.

The only part of Phase 1 construction (begun in November 2020) yet to be done before spring is the auditorium, set for completion in April. It “is looking wonderful,” AHS Principal Matthew Janger said. 

Phase 2 construction

Then Phase 2 construction, expected to begin in March, the creation of the humanities wing, central spine, media center, the learning courtyard, district offices and Menotomy Preschool. That phase is expected to be complete in September 2023.

Phase 2 also means tearing down the old buildings. Of necessity, this will take place during daylight hours, often starting as early at 7 a.m., but mitigation measures are in place as to noise and air quality, Janger said. 

Teachers will adjust to the fact that during this period, more travel time between classes may be needed -- and will also be sensitive to students’ mental health needs.

“We know that change is difficult” for everyone, Janger said. The key is his staff “being alert to the challenges” especially for teens often already under emotional stress from the ongoing pandemic. Pacing of schoolwork will be done with reasonable expectations of students. “We will make adjustments as we go.”

As far as getting from place to place, he said students will be continually reminded that their goal is to “go directly from one class to the next” rather than lingering in hallways in between.

Winchester High experience

John LaMarre, senior project manager , said that his construction company, Consligi, has previous experience with the new Winchester High School.

“We can harmoniously work and build a building, and students can productively learn” at the same time, he said. He said demolition likely will begin in mid-March and could take about six weeks. Air quality is already being tested at least monthly by a third party, and “all of the readings have been coming in fine,” he said. 

Janger agreed that “Air quality in the school is not degraded.” However, parents whose children have longstanding ongoing respiratory issues are welcome to share relevant diagnostic information with school health officials.

Air-conditioning will be provided in rooms near the demolition and facing new construction, said Assistant Principal William McCarthy. New wings of the school will have AC, filtration and ultraviolet light treatment.

AHS alumni and others who want to tour the original campus before demolition begins are urged to contact McCarthy as soon as possible; tours could begin as soon as this weekend.

At the end of the presentation, Superintendent Liz Homan moderated a 20- to 30-minute Q&A. Some questions were sent in advance; others were submitted via the chat during the presentation.

About 70 people "attended" the livestream about the reconstruction at the high school, divided roughly equally between those who heard the English-language version and those who heard it translated into other languages.

Watch the Dec. 15 forum broadcast by ACMi:

Second forum Jan. 25

Another online forum on the construction is planned for Jan. 25. Meanwhile, for ongoing information, including graphics and photographs: 

February 2020 to present: Weekly update about AHS construction

This news announcement was published Monday, Dec. 6, 2021, and converted to a news summary by YourArlington freelancer Judith Pfeffer on Dec. 16. It was updated Dec. 17, to add the attendance as well as an ACMi video window. It uas updated again Dec. 22, to add a video window the forum for abutters, as well as on Jan. 27