Science Labs State Funding Awarded to MHS
The Massachusetts School Building Authority will pay for half the cost of building new science labs at Melrose High School, an estimated $1.5-$1.8 million project.
Melrose is one of nine communities selected to receive state funding through a new short-term grant program designed specifically to help Massachusetts high schools address deficiencies in their science labs, Mayor Rob Dolan said yesterday.
The new grant program by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) is $60 million of "one-time funding" that the MSBA is earmarking solely for science labs.
Dolan said building the new science labs at Melrose High School will cost approximately $1.5-$1.8 million dollars, a "back of the envelope" estimate because design work hasn't started yet.
Whatever the final total amount of the project, the MSBA will pay for half.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—commonly called the federal stimulus package—funded the new grant program, Dolan added.
"For people who ask what has the stimulus ever done, people in Melrose going to get 50 percent of cost, close to $800,000," he said.
The project will begin in the spring of 2013, Dolan said, and must be finished by Sept. 1, 2013, per MSBA's rules for the program.
"When the kids come back to school a year from September, there will be all new science labs," he said.
Melrose High School's science labs were one of the building condition items cited by NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges) when it placed the school on warning status last spring. The school has since been removed from warning status for curriculum, but remains on warning for the building's condition.
The accreditation agency's report noted "inoperable hoods in some science labs that do not meet code and are labeled 'Do Not Use.'"
In the progress report submitted to NEASC in March, the school reported that all the science lab hood vents except for one are now fully functional, and the one lab with a non-functional vent has a second, fully-functional vent.
In January, the Melrose Board of Aldermen and School Committee both unanimously voted to send a statement of interest to the MSBA regarding the new grant program.
Superintendent Joe Casey yesterday thanked both the aldermen and School Committee for those votes, and Melrose City Planner Denise Gaffey and School Facilities Manager Bob Ciampi for their suppoer through the process.
Casey also singled out the work of MHS Science Department Chairwoman Julie Shea in coordinating the charge for the new labs, such as bringing in members of the EPA to volunteer and update the school's chemical inventory controls and compiling information sought by MSBA during the grant process.
"She has been absolutely fabulous working to move things forward," Casey said. "Julie has done a wonderful job in terms of getting things ready and collecting information, leading walk-throughs and brainstorming about what we can do about building the labs. They aren’t just going to be chem labs—they’re going to be multi-use."
Gaffey previously told the School Committee that the MSBA is looking for flexible layouts: classrooms that can easily convert from a lab setting to a classroom setting, with lab equipment mostly on the perimeter of the room. (See attached video for a "fly-through" demonstrating some of the the MSBA science lab design requirements and best practices.)
Gaffey also told the committee that due to the design of Melrose High School, the labs have ample space to work with in creating those layouts.