The student news site of Dartmouth High School

The Spectrum

The student news site of Dartmouth High School

The Spectrum

The student news site of Dartmouth High School

The Spectrum

Is it time to build a new DHS?

The Town of Dartmouth is exploring the possibility of turning the current DHS into a middle school and building the new high school where the current middle school is located.

On September 25, the Dartmouth School Committee detailed their Capital Improvement plan for the next several years. At the top of that list is the prospect of the existing middle school needing replacement. In addition to the middle school the School Committee’s long term plans are to replace all three elementary schools. At this time no official plan has been proposed. However, these issues are recognized and something will have to be done over the next several years. 

During the meeting the school committee proposed a series of hypothetical plans. One of those plans included the idea to build a new high school. This plan would aim to build a new high school on the campus of the existing middle school and in turn move middle school operations to the current high school. Another possibility associated with this plan is the relocation of grade five to the middle school to enable the district to close the century-old Cushman school. Other ideas included prioritizing the replacement of the elementary schools and tabling the issue of the middle school. 

The committee members had mixed reactions to all of these ideas, and so I caught up with Assistant Superintendent James Kiely to ask his perspective on some of these plans and the issues associated with them.

(Note: The Assistant Superintendent’s views do not represent those of the School Committee.) 

Building any type of school anywhere presents logistical challenges, but especially when that building will be built where one already exists. In the case of the plan to build a high school on the campus of the middle school, the district would have to completely redevelop the property to accomplish this. When asked about this, Mr. Kiely saw the pros and cons on this issue, nothing that the clear drawbacks of the plan “are logistical challenges to constructing a new building on the current Middle School/Quinn School property.” However, Mr. Keily said, in contrast, the pros of the plan are that since the district does not own another property in the center of town with the potential for developing a school  “the location in the center of town is very favorable.” 

The development of schools, no matter the size of the project, is an expensive process.

The development of schools, no matter the size of the project, is an expensive process. Particularly in the current inflationary times that our country’s economy is in. For example, in Somerset, MA the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of a new middle school was just held. This new school will house 600 students. This project is estimated to cost the town of Somerset nearly $90,000,000. A high cost for a project of a relatively small size. 

So what does this mean for Dartmouth? Well, it is hard to say. Mr. Kiely explained the “cost of a high school or middle school is very difficult to determine.” However, the scope of the project the district eventually undertakes will be a major factor in the cost. In fact he explained, “Cost depends greatly on the size of the building and the programs it will support.” But many would argue a high school is less complex than a middle school and so, therefore, a less expensive build. This is something Mr. Kiely pointed out saying, “Typically a middle school is less expensive to construct than a high school.” 

The district also has plans to close the nearly century old Cushman School. One of the ways to accomplish this is by building a larger middle school that can accommodate more grades. Mr. Kiely said, “If that were done, the new middle school would be more expensive than an average middle school…” All of these factors play into cost and until an official proposal is drafted determining the cost of whatever project eventually takes shape, it is just too difficult to know for sure at this time. 

All of these plans affect a specific group of Dartmouth students. But which plan will have the greatest impact on all students? When asked this, Mr. Kiely said, “A new high school improves the educational experience for all Dartmouth students.” Why is this? It would have an effect on all students because the town would have a centralized state of the art facility. In addition the school would be a major community gathering point. The school would also give “a competitive advantage to Dartmouth High School to retain and recruit students.” An important possibility because the district is following a statewide trend of falling enrollment. 

With all of these plans being in only a discussion stage it may be some time before an official direction forward is decided on. Although a major takeaway from these preliminary discussions is that many perspectives will be needed to make a plan that has the most impact and best suits the students of Dartmouth Public Schools.

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    Ahmed RNov 3, 2023 at 12:20 pm

    Would love this

    ever been to sharon or a new school like that?