Massachusetts Unlocks $2.5B for Schools
The Bay State’s 1,600 public schools
have been starving for money to repair, renovate, and build new facilities
because of a funding moratorium imposed in 2004 by the newly created
Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA).
The funding floodgates opened a little
bit in late November, when the MSBA announced 83 schools as the lead candidates
for up to $500M in construction money to be used for repairs, feasibility
studies, design work, and some new buildings.
“Every district that is among the 83
schools should greet this with real jubilation after a four-year moratorium,”
said Katherine Craven, executive director of the MSBA, according to the Boston
The MSBA was created four years ago to
improve the state’s school facility financing process and to ensure equitable
assessment of the needs of the state’s public schools. Its strategy included
hiring teams of independent architects and engineers to assess in a very
hands-on manner each school’s building needs. The MSBA with a team of 25
consultants from STV, an architectural and engineering firm in New York City,
visited each site equipped with tablet computers loaded with special software
that is tailor-made for Massachusetts.
“We created a custom-made software
program to measure specific building conditions identified as priorities in
Massachusetts law,” said Price Jepsen, AIA, STV project manager. “None of this
is cookie-cutter. Using the MSBA’s criteria, we spend two days in the field to
establish in fine detail whether a building is an imminent threat to health and
safety, functionally obsolete, requires energy efficiency improvements, or is
in jeopardy of overcrowding.” To date, the teams have visited 423 schools.
At each school site, the assessment
teams punch in details about the condition of the building’s exterior walls,
roof, interior finishes, plumbing, technology systems, and general age and
condition. This information is uploaded to the MSBA server and used to develop
a comprehensive report of each building’s condition, which can be compared with
other school conditions and requests across the Commonwealth. The teams then
translate the building condition report into capital improvement cost estimates
and a facility conditions index. The MSBA uses this information to determine
the appropriate distribution of funds.
In addition to in-depth physical
assessments, six STV senior staff are spear-heading a “senior study” project to
visit 135 targeted schools to give evaluations on more complex issues about how
a school functions — for example, is it meeting its educational mission with
the appropriate programs and with enough space?
Of the 423 school requests for next
year, 245 were from elementary schools, 81 from high schools, and 69 from
middle schools. The $500M infusion for fiscal year 2008 represents the first
phase of a five-year program by MSBA to distribute approximately $2.5B for
school construction projects.
STV, an employee-owned firm, provides full
architectural, engineering, planning, environmental, and construction
management services. Recently, Engineering News-Record ranked STV 12th in
Education in its Top Design Firms survey. For more information, see STV's
Website at www.stvinc.com