DUXBURY — Although it’s not an election year, local voters may be asked to go to the polls this November to consider what would be the largest bond issue for school construction in the history of the Harwood Union School District.

At last week’s meeting of the Harwood Unified Union School District School Board, architects presented a breakdown of proposed construction for Harwood Union High School totaling $53 million. An expansion to Crossett Brook Middle School to accommodate merging all seventh- and eighth-graders into that facility would add another $6 million.

The construction total for the proposal would come to $59.5 million.

For the past six years, district leaders have discussed a major bond to address overdue repairs, renovations and upgrades to the high school, which was built in 1965. The school’s last expansion with some repairs was in 1998.

Work on the drawing board presented by the Burlington architectural firm Truex Cullins would address needed repairs such as replacing the roof and antiquated HVAC and plumbing systems. It would expand science labs that do not meet modern standards. Windows with meager insulation — some still originals from the 1960s — would be replaced and a key goal would be to reconstruct some interior areas of the building to add windows and light to current classrooms and workspaces that receive no natural light.

School leaders and designers have crafted plans designed to create spaces that lend themselves to learning and teaching practices in use today where students work in small groups, do presentations and spend time with hands-on projects that require space to move around. Co-Principal Meg McDonough in introducing some of the elements noted that educational practices in the 1960s consisted largely of classes with students seated in rows of desks and teachers lecturing in a “stand-and-deliver” model.

The designs also allow for classrooms in specific subject areas to be located together such as humanities and STEM offerings. Other space would be devoted to a wellness center, a dedicated area for ninth-grade classes, and more room for gatherings for various activities.

Some of the high school work would be aimed at making the building more efficient in areas like lighting, dehumidification, and insulation that would result in energy savings estimated at $45,000 annually. Shifting uses and spaces within the building as a result of the project and the merger of middle school students to Crossett Brook would also allow the district to move its central offices from leased space to the high school facility.

Other elements of the design would address safety. Facilities Manager Ray Daigle described how various small vehicles on the high school campus are stored within the school building near the cafeteria. That design would not meet modern building practices for safety. Other issues are inadequate lighting in the parking lot and around the building, he said. The site also will need work to address stormwater issues to comply with new environmental regulations.

Two big parts of the high school proposal address deficiencies in the school’s athletics and physical education facilities. Architects have designed a new second gymnasium with $5.7 million. The second gym would allow for more physical education classes, better scheduling for athletics, and facility available for community groups, school officials said.

The project also would replace the school’s gravel running track with a modern facility at a cost estimated at $2.88 million.

At Crossett Brook, the designs call for adding a new wing in the area where the faculty parking lot is now. This would be the first major construction at the school since it was built in 1996. Adding students from grades 7 and 8 from Harwood Middle School would mean about 100 more students and 15 more teaching staff to the school.

The School Board earlier this year in deciding to combine those grades at Crossett, said it would do so without the use of temporary buildings, making the expansion to accommodate the added enrollment the first step in the series of moves needed to update both buildings.

The design plans call for reconfiguring some site features such as a fire-access road around the building and some of the parking, but the site’s size can accommodate these changes, school Principal Tom Drake said.

In addition to several classrooms for the new students, a smaller office and meeting space would be included as well as a large room with amphitheater seating for 150 people. The school currently has no auditorium; its cafeteria serves that function.

The timeline to commit to a Nov. 2 vote is tight.

Given the school board’s typical summer recess, it just last week resumed regular meetings with upcoming meetings to discuss the construction project and bond scheduled for Sept. 8 and 15. In order to meet election requirements, the board would need to decide by Sept. 15 what it would present to voters on the ballot.

Should the bond vote move ahead and be successful, construction would begin at Crossett Brook in 2022 with a goal of combining the seventh and eighth grades for the 2023-24 school year. Work on the high school facility would start in 2023 with a target to be completed during the 2024-25 school year.

The School Board is looking to hear from the public in an online survey it created last week following the architect’s presentation. The survey is on the HUUSD.org website and it contains a link to the project slides that architects from the Truex Cullins and construction management firm ReArch used to outline the details.

What’s unclear is just how much construction the school board will ask voters to pay for now.

The proposal presented last week by project designers totals $59.5 million. The survey, however, suggests a scenario for doing just $36 million of work at Harwood and “minimal” classroom additions at Crossett Brook.

Questions ask the public to consider and offer feedback on various elements of the project such as the high school gym and track pieces and meeting space at the middle school. To gauge public support, it offers five bond options in $10 million increments from $40-70 million with one option being no bond at all.

The survey also explains the property tax impact on homes of three different values, which are outlined in the presentation slides. A 20-year $60 million bond, for example, that would pay for the work outlined in the presentation last week would mean an annual property tax increase of $437 for a home valued at $250,000; $611 for a $350,000 home; and $873 for a $500,000 home.

The survey was online through Sept. 7.

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