BY ANDONI ZERVOGLOS '22
Since 2017, the AB community has called for upgraded school buildings. Citing the outdated and cramped state of some buildings, many individuals sought an update and joined forums dedicated to designating which schools had the greatest need. Finally, on December 17, 2019, the town voted to begin construction of a combined Douglas and Gates school on the previous Gates site. The building will house three schools: Douglas, Gates, and the Carol Huebner Early Childhood Program. Amenities include two gyms, outside basketball courts and fields, and two spaces dedicated to STEAM—science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics. Additionally, the campus includes plenty of parking spaces and a cafeteria that fits 300 people. As a whole, the combined school marks a successful district attempt to channel community feedback into an actionable solution.
Current Gates and Douglas principals, Lynne Newman and Chris Whitbeck, echoed the community in explaining why these particular schools deserved renovations: built 49 and 51 years ago respectively, both schools’ outdated buildings disrupted the learning environment for the elementary students. The schools were too small and the student body of 400 was forced to fit into a cafeteria meant for 280 kids. Moreover, both schools lacked adequate storage and classroom space, resulting in many rooms being used for both storage and learning—this arrangement ultimately distracted students and faculty alike. These factors made it clear that drastic change was needed. Since the state reimbursed 38% of the roughly $116 million price tag through their Massachusetts School Building Authority program, the choice to rebuild came naturally.
Demolition began on the weekend of June 26, 2020. The old building has served the community of Acton Boxborough well, but its time is over; rising from the old school’s ashes is something bigger and better. Set to be completed before the 2023 school year begins, there have been surprisingly few setbacks to the schedule. In fact, while the pandemic affected labor progress to some degree, it also lowered the overall cost of the school because companies were looking for a job to do. In the words of Mary Brolin, the chair of the AB school committee, it “created a competitive market favorable for our project.” When asked further about how the new building was set up, she emphasized its eco-friendly features. The building is set to triple net-zero standards which means it has the highest standards of reaching net-zero waste in water, energy, and waste.
This is a vision that has been in the works for years, and soon it will be a reality that younger generations of students will benefit from.