Published in the November 15, 2017 edition


WAKEFIELD – Work on the Walton School renovation project is expected to begin in about a week, after the Permanent Building Committee (PBC) chose a general contractor Monday night.

School Director of Facilities and Transportation Maria Serrao told the School Committee last night that the PBC awarded the Walton contract to BC Construction of North Reading. The contract has been forwarded to Town Counsel Thomas Mullen for his review, Serrao said.

“The best news,” Serrao said, “is that everything came in on or below budget so we will be able to maintain the budget that was set for this project.

Last May, Annual Town Meeting appropriated $5.7 million for the Walton project.

Serrao said that both the storage trailer and the front office trailer are expected to be delivered in the next week or so, “and we’ll be on our way with Phase I.”

The Walton project will address longstanding space needs at the West Side elementary school and allow children to attend kindergarten in their own neighborhood. Currently, Walton kindergarteners are bused to the Woodville School.

The plan is to demolish the modular classrooms on the site and replace them with a pre-engineered metal building that is structurally separated from the existing building. This addition would create a new gymnasium, kitchen, art classroom and bathrooms along with storage space.

Also proposed are mostly non-structural renovations to the existing building, including reconfiguring existing spaces and upgrades to mechanical, electrical, fire protection and plumbing systems.

School Committee member Christopher Callanan, who also serves on the PBC, said that he wasn’t overly concerned about the budget but was still relieved when the bids came in, as it now appears that nothing will have to be cut in order to stay within the project budget.

Serrao acknowledged that there will be some disruption along the way during construction but said that the school staff was prepared and is excited that the project is about to commence.

She said that there is a web site for the project that is about to go live and will serve to keep the school community and the Walton neighbors informed of project updates and details.


Serrao also presented the School Department’s list of capital requests for FY 2019 at last night’s School Committee meeting. The district-wide capital request list was prioritized into three tiers, based on need. Tier I represented the most critical needs, Serrao said, with Tiers II and III still important but not as critical as Tier I.

At the top of Tier I was HVAC improvements at the High School at a cost of $100,000. Serrao said that even as the School Department hopes to be approved for state funding assistance to build a new high school, it was still important to keep the current building conducive to teaching and learning. 

Improvements to the Greenwood School playground structure for handicapped accessibility were also listed in Tier I at a cost of $75,000. Serrao explained that while the Woodville School could also use some accessible structures, that playground itself is accessible. That is not true of the Greenwood School, she noted, where the playground surface itself is wood chips, making wheelchair accessibility difficult.

Also at the Greenwood School, a single restroom on the first floor is requested at a cost of $20,000.

At the Doyle Early Childhood Center, a sprinkler system for the building is on the Tier I list at a cost of $30,000. Also at the Doyle, $25,000 is being requested to redesign and update the boys’ bathroom as the existing fixtures are not appropriate for the current school population.

Moving to athletics, $50,000 is requested for a baseball backstop and netting for Walsh Field at the High School. Serrao said that it was a matter of safety for players and spectators as well as for users of the adjacent tennis courts.

District-wide, Serrao said that a radio communications system to support the School Department’s fleet of 12 vehicles was requested at a cost of $15,000.

In addition, phones with outside calling capability are being requested for the Walton School (26 phones) and the Greenwood School (30). That request was listed at accost of $38,520.

The total cost of the Tier I priority capital requests was $353,520.

Callanan questioned Serrao about the status of the boiler at the Doyle School, which was listed on previous years’ capital requests but has not been done.

Serrao said that that item was approved for FY 2015 and remains on the town-wide capital to-do list. Funds for the boiler are carried over from year to year and remain available. She said that it is something that the School Department continues to work on with the DPW.

Per School Committee policy, the capital request was tabled for two weeks until the next committee meeting at which point a vote on the list will be taken.