Covid-19 Impacts on the Construction of the New High School Building

By: Noah Tolentino — Correspondent

Construction on the new Sharon High School building is finally underway after the delay due to the coronavirus halting the proposal. The architects say that the planned opening is still for the fall of 2022.

Senior Sam Levitt is excited for the younger kids in Sharon who will get to experience a new building, instead of the old one which has many issues. “I am happy that our grade won’t be affected by the construction too much because we will finish off still in the old building, which feels more satisfying because we started in it,” said Levitt. But he says that it will be weird seeing a new building where the sports fields were while students are still here.

“It may complicate access to the field, but it shouldn’t be too bad,” Levitt added. He says the irony in the situation is that the school is small for the cohorts during COVID and the construction limits how much outside space students have for mask breaks.

SHS Science Coordinator Ms. Emily Burke has been involved as part of the instructional leadership team for the endeavor from the very beginning, where they wrote their statement of interest to the grant program of the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), and throughout the interview process as well as the selection process.

“Once we were approved into the program, I had asked to be on the school building committee. I’m a nonvoting member, and I attend meetings of the Sharon Standing Building Committee made up of residents in town—they apply and then they are appointed to those positions when they are discussing the new high school, which is just about every one of their meetings in the last few years!” said Burke. 

The MSBA also wants members from the school to be a part of the committee, so one member of the school committee, the superintendent, and herself will be part of it, and mostly they are looking for people who have a background in building. “I’m interested in the project. If I weren’t going to be an educator and I were to pick a completely different job, I think I would probably go into construction,” added Burke. 

On top of her educational background, Burke has worked at the middle school as a teacher while they were going through their renovation project, so she got to see it from the teachers’ end of things. “It’s kind of cool to see what happens behind the scenes knowing how it’s going to affect the teachers, so I feel like I can bring that to the table. It’s something different and fun for me to be involved in,” Burke said. 

In terms of how the demolition process would interfere with education, Burke says it’s going to get really loud for a good month or so when they’re getting ready to get the foundation in.

Burke says one of the main reasons why they voted to move forward with the new building was that it would be the least disruptive option. Other possibilities were a renovation or a completely new building, but ultimately, the plan with the shortest timeline, least disruption to education, and most cost-effective was to do a completely new build. 

But, Burke says that right now, while the noise is distracting for classrooms near the construction, the best decision is to evict sports since their fields have been taken over, and they’re displaced for even longer than the education in the school building is affected. Burke says the plan is that “they’ll build this whole new building right next door, we’ll all move into it, and then they’ll take another year to demolish the structure that we’re in right now, and then build new fields…  it’s actually an additional year that the sports are disrupted.”

As for the struggles of balancing coronavirus safety with developmental undertakings, Burke says that the parking situation and getting students to and from the beach parking lot has been the biggest problem so far. Because the pathway that used to come straight from the beach to the school has been blocked as well as the front parking lot, juniors who park in the lake lot have a more difficult time getting to school.

Although she hopes will only be obstructed for a short period of time, Burke says that “we’re waiting for a new gas main to go in, and Columbia Gas needs to install that… that’s not on our project timeline, that’s on Columbia Gas’s timeline… and they were just bought out, so they got a delay for a little bit.” She says she continues to be optimistic that the disruptions and traffic issues will remain outside of the school building and doesn’t foresee any problems beyond that at this point. 

While there have obviously been some roadblocks to academics, Burke says that there are some opportunities that also arise. For instance, last year when they were testing the soils, she had an environmental science class that she’d bring outside, and they were able to see the soil pits and talk to the scientists who were out there doing the soil tests right on site. 

“This year, there might be some other opportunities in terms of learning about the physics of getting this new building built… Our engineering design students might start looking at designing what size display cases we need, and art students can discuss where the art is going to go and what it’s going to look like,” said Burke.

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