Timeline of Events
If you have never had an opportunity to visit Franklin High, and you want to see what folks are talking about relative to the prior condition of the building, then click below and spend about 9 minutes walking through the facility. This video tour takes you through the building, highlighting the science labs, lecture hall/auditorium, classrooms, computers, and other areas where the facility needed work.
On February 26, 2008, Michael McKeon, from the architectural firm Kaestle Boos Associates (KBA), presented the final report on the Franklin High School feasibility study to the School Committee. KBA presented three design options for renovating and adding to the building, with costs ranging from $93 to $100 million, and a fourth scenario to build a completely new school for $120 to $130 million.
The feasibility study was necessary to address concerns about the building that were raised in the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accreditation report issued in 2005. With this project, the Town of Franklin is seeking to move the community’s aging high school into the 21st century. In the spring 2005, the School Committee requested that a study of the facility needs at Franklin High School be conducted. The needs study looked at what physical aspects of the Franklin High School facility must be addressed to bring the 35 year old facility up to date.
On the renovation side, KBA presented three design options for renovating and adding to the building, with costs ranging from $93 to $100 million. It was noted that the facilities must be updated — for example, disabled students should be provided full access to the building — and cosmetic repairs should also be made, such as replacing tiles and ceilings. The school desperately needs new science labs and an auditorium. One architect who visited the building said the labs were so outdated they looked like ”Frankenstein came out of there.” Theater and band performances now take place in a lecture hall with decades-old seats.
A fourth scenario presented provided a plan for building a completely new school at a price between $120 and $130 million. The new school could be built on the other side of the field house on some of the existing fields, which could be rebuilt where the existing facility is currently located. The site plan shows keeping the existing parking off Oak Street (to serve the new fields) and extends the parking at Horace Mann up to the current exit road just east of the wetlands/woods for teachers and students. Traffic can then be routed straight through the site from Oak to Panther way with a bus drop off loop in the rear corner and parent drop off in the front, off Oak. The existing ring road (around the high school) provides access to the terraced athletic fields.
With this project, the Town of Franklin is seeking to move the community's aging high school into the 21st century. In the spring 2005, the School Committee requested that a study of the facility needs at Franklin High School be conducted. The needs study will be performed by an architect to look at what physical aspects of the Franklin High School facility must be addressed to bring the 35 year old facility up to date. A partial report was delivered in the spring 2006. Five architectural firms were interviewed and Kaestle Boos of Foxborough, was selected to complete the design and facilities study of FHS. The Town is familiar with their efforts, since they were the architectural firm who designed and monitored construction of the Keller Elementary School and the Sullivan Middle School. Over the next six months, they will be reviewing many of the infrastructure items (i.e. ventilation, heating, electrical, plumbing, handicap accessibility). An intriguing option for the renovation process is a Performing Arts Center to accommodate our growing music, theatre and instrumental programs. The architect will also be required to study future population trends. We will keep you updated as to the architects findings and districts instructional direction.
In an effort to support the architectural feasibility study authorized by the School Committee, the superintendent has established two advisory groups to review instructional practices, pedagogy and overall programs at the high school. Both committees will review current educational practices and gather data to make educational/instructional recommendations for a proposed renovation of the facility.
The Franklin High School Vision Committee is an advisory group comprised of students, parents, teachers, administrators and district personnel. The mission is to review instructional practices and programs at Franklin High School and make recommendations to the superintendent of schools. The committee will collect data on effective practices and programs, review research and literature, arrange visits to innovative high schools and conduct focus groups with staff, students and parents. The overarching goal is to develop a variety of instructional models at the high school that will reflect the needs of learners who are not currently attending the high school. The committee will work in concert with the architectural firm conducting the feasibility study.
The Assessment/Student Services Committee is comprised of students, parents, teachers, administrators and central office personnel. Using the NEASC recommendations ,the committee will review how student services are affected at the high school. In addition to guidance, health , and vocational programs the team will look at how student achievement is assessed and will review the overall educational experience of all students at the high school.
As part of the FHS work, Kaestle Boos subcontracted with another firm to conduct a very detailed, professional population study of Franklin designed to give us a projection on student enrollment trends here well into the future. That was discussed at the December 13, 2005 School Committee meeting.
The School Committee has commissioned a study of renovating the 35-year-old building. We want it updated to reflect the latest trend in teaching: a more collaborative, interdisciplinary, and wired approach. ''We want to look ahead to see how we can deliver information from teacher to student in a more appropriate fashion," said Franklin High's interim principal, Dennis Wilkinson. The study, to be completed in June, will recommend solutions for the building's shortcomings, which include poor lighting and ventilation, antiquated science labs, a dingy library, and a makeshift auditorium.
Officials say that Franklin does not need an entirely new high school, but they insist that repairing and updating the building must be done as pointed out in the recent accreditation report. The facilities must be updated — for example, disabled students should be provided full access to the building -- and cosmetic repairs should also be made, such as replacing tiles and ceilings. The school desperately needs new science labs and an auditorium. One architect who visited the building said the labs were so outdated they looked like ''Frankenstein came out of there." Theater and band performances now take place in a lecture hall with decades-old seats.
The study will begin with a thorough examination of existing records and plans for the school. Then the firm will draw up its own computer drawings of the building, according to McKeon. "There's a lot of data that has to be gathered," he said.
The firm will then do a "total code analysis" to see where the school does not comply with modern building codes, McKeon said. Everything from the floor finish to the basic structure of the building itself must be examined, he said.
McKeon said he already knows there are problems with handicapped access at the school. Also, the main structure itself may need to be reinforced to help the building withstand an earthquake, a modern requirement that did not exist when the building was designed in 1970, he said.The study will also look at how space is used within the building, by kids, staff and community groups. "Out of this study has to come a reorganization of the community use of the facility," McKeon said.
Kaestle Boos' study will also provide an up-to-date look at population trends in the town, to make sure any renovations make the building usable over the long term.
Ultimately, the high school needs help, McKeon said. "It's a tired, old, dark building," he said. "Some of the programs that were designed into it are no longer functional. Some of the things that are nowadays important are not there."
The high school, with 135 faculty members, does have some room to grow. It has 1,500 students and the current building has a capacity of up to 1,800. But officials say enrollment could grow to 2,100 in as few as five years.
The school installed 130 new computers and two new computer labs over the summer, but Wilkinson said it still needs a high-technology shot in the arm. School officials are considering providing wireless Internet access, as well as interactive whiteboards that allow teachers to project images from computers onto the screen.
Michael McKeon, who heads Kaestle Boos's Foxborough office, said that, based on the firm's preliminary assessment, the school needs new insulation, which could save on energy costs, and better lighting and ventilation, because dim classrooms with poor air circulation make for sleepy, unproductive students. Beyond such basics, McKeon said the school needs to better enable modern, project-oriented learning that involves smaller groups of students and pulls different subjects together. ''The delivery of educational services is a lot more complex than in was in 1970," McKeon said, adding that students must compete with others ''from all over the world."
On December 13, 2005, the architect Kaestle Boos made a presentation to the School Committee regarding their progress to date. The firm is currently in what is known as the pre-design phase in which they gather information about the structural, mechanical and plumbing aspects of the building. In the next few months, these findings will be blended with two other elements. One is the educational space needs of FHS in the future -- an assessment by members of the high school community as to what kind and style of space will best suit the learning environment and curriculum they would like to see. The structural information also will be meshed with enrollment data about the number of students the building will need to accommodate in the next decade. As a Kaestle Boos executive described it, Franklin High is a "sturdy by tired" facility that now needs to be "upgraded to 21st century educational requirements." Sometime in the spring, you can expect the firm to produce not only a variety of cost estimates for different renovation scenarios but also conceptual drawings of what the renovated spaces may look like.
These preliminary designs are expected to trigger the need for the creation of a building committee to vigilantly oversee the remainder of the process and to generate community support for the renovation effort. As has been the case with most of the town's recent school construction project, it is likely that voters will be asked to support a debt exclusion that will allow the town to borrow funds for the work to be done. But there's a lot of work to do before we get to that step.
On December 12, 2005, executives from Kaestle Boos Associates gave a presentation on their plans for the feasibility study. KBA delivered an interim report on the FHS project the spring 2006. A final report with recommendations was made on October 10, 2006.