Overview of Projects
Since the late 1990s, the Town of Wellesley has steadily engaged in school projects to address aging facilities and renovate or rebuild as needed to meet the immediate and long-term educational needs of its students. The Hardy, Hunnewell, and Upham schools are the last to address as part of this master facilities plan. Since 2012, multiple Town committees have determined that simply renovating the existing HHU schools would not be sufficient to meet educational needs, and have recommended rebuilding to 21st-century standards.
With elementary enrollment in a long-term decline, currently the Town is planning to rebuild two of the three schools, the Hunnewell School and the Hardy School, with the Upham School chool closing once the project is complete. The School Committee has voted to recommend rebuilding the third school when enrollment reverses trend and reaches a specific target.
While these will be two separate construction projects, they are connected in important ways -- through project oversight; by a shared project team; through a common school size; and by the need for system-wide elementary school redistricting when construction is complete and the Town consolidates from seven neighborhood schools to six. This page also includes an overview of the approval process for each school, and a look at the decline in elementary enrollment, including how the schools are monitoring long-term trends.
Wellesley High School, built in partnership with the MSBA. (Designer: SMMA)
The School Building Committee (SBC) conducted feasibility studies for both elementary schools, and made recommendations for building all-new schools at Hunnewell and Hardy. In conducting the analysis and making its recommendations, the SBC was guided by the Charge to the SBC as well as the School Committee's HHU Position Statement. After the completion of the feasibility studies, the preferred options for each school were approved by the School Committee and the Board of Selectmen.
The design and construction of each project is being overseen by the Town's Permanent Building Committee (PBC). Click here for more information on PBC membership and responsibilities.
As with the High School, for the Hardy project the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) is providing partial funding to the Town through its grant program. The MSBA and its Board of Directors will provide approval and oversight throughout the study, design and construction phases of that elementary school.
Field Elementary School, Weston (OPM: Compass Project Management)
Through the School Building Committee, the Town engaged an architectural firm and an owner's project manager via a qualifications-based selection process compliant with Chapter 7C of the Massachusetts General Laws.
SMMA, the firm that designed the new (2012) Wellesley High School facility and has helped the Town with school facilities master planning among other projects, is serving as the architect for both the Hunnewell and the Hardy projects.
In addition, the Town has selected Compass Project Management as owner's project manager (OPM) for both projects to support the Town's interests during the study, design, construction, and closeout phases. Town staff support for both Hunnewell and Hardy includes project managers from the Facilities Management Department.
Sprague Elementary School, completed 2002 (Designer: HMFH)
While both school projects must be approved by Town Meeting and Wellesley voters, the processes are slightly different. The reason: The Hunnewell project is to be entirely funded by the Town, and the Hardy project will be funded by both the Town and the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA).
The Hunnewell project has three approval milestones, following the typical Town process: Feasibility funding (approved by Town Meeting on June 5, 2018), design and permitting funding approved by Town Meeting on December 9, 2019; and construction funding (which will require a debt exclusion approved by both Town Meeting and the voters).
For the Hardy project, the Town is partnering with the MSBA, which is expected to fund close to 35 percent of eligible costs. The MSBA process includes only two funding approval milestones: feasibility and schematic design funding (approved by Town Meeting on October 2, 2018) and detailed design, permitting, and construction funding (requiring a debt exclusion approved by both Town Meeting and the voters). For more on project scheduling, see the Hunnewell and Hardy/Upham pages.
The planning and programming of these projects has been driven by the School Committee's HHU Position Statement. Below are some of the considerations that are informing the planning for the Hunnewell and Hardy projects.
Elementary school size has been a significant discussion point in planning for new facilities. One of the notable recommendations made by the HHU Master Plan Committee (MPC) in 2017 was that the Town build K-5 schools with 19 classrooms, or three classrooms per grade, with one additional classroom to accommodate spikes in enrollment.
The Hardy, Hunnewell, and Upham schools are the Town's smallest, with Hardy operating at 13-14 classrooms in recent years, and Hunnewell and Upham at 12 classrooms each.
The School Committee and the Wellesley Public Schools administration, including all seven elementary principals, have strongly supported a minimum of three classrooms per grade for educational reasons. In addition, building to this size will create parity across the district for the number of students in each school. Sprague and Bates each have 19 classrooms, and Fiske and Schofield 18.
Wellesley's K-5 enrollment has declined by more than 500 students since the recent peak of 2,481 students (2008-09).
In recent years, two professional consultants, Cropper and FutureThink, have provided detailed ten-year enrollment forecasts. Additionally, in 2018, a study by the Massachusetts School Building Authority forecasted an average enrollment for Wellesley of 2,155 over the next 10 years. This number accounted for all potential 40-B and 40-R housing developments that were in the approval and planning stages at that time, including the Wellesley Office Park units. Finally, the school district worked with FutureThink to update its forecast in 2020 as part of the redistricting process.
The School Committee has voted to support the MPC's recommendation of planning to rebuild a seventh school once enrollment rises and trends past 2,350 students.
The consolidation from seven to six neighborhood schools will trigger a need for a town-wide elementary school redistricting.
The new redistricting map is not expected to take effect until 2024 at the earliest. But the MSBA required the Town to include a redistricting plan when it sought approval from the MSBA Board of Directors for the "preferred solution" of building an all-new Hardy.
To meet this requirement, the School Committee, which is responsible for the WPS attendance zone map, undertook a redistricting process in early 2020. To assist with the planning, the school department hired a consultant, AppGeo, and convened a Superintendent's Advisory Group on Redistricting that included representatives from all elementary schools.
The redistricting map that was developed and voted by the School Committee in the event of a Hardy build is slated to go into effect after the Hunnewell and Hardy schools are complete. That map can be found here.