Frequently Asked Questions

If you have questions that are not answered on this website or suggestions for FAQ additions, please send us an email: andoverhighbuildingproject@andoverma.us

Existing Site/Building Conditions

Design for Andover High began in November 1963 and was originally built for grades 10 through 12 and 1,200 students. The building opened in February 1968.

The Collins Performing Arts Center was added in 1983. 9th grade was moved from the junior high level to Andover High in 1989.

In 1995, the AHS building was partially renovated and additional space was added in an attempt to house 1,500 students. Primary changes were: the addition of a science wing, a new entrance (the old entrance was where the cafeteria is now), addition of art classrooms, addition of the field house, and the Dunn gym and cafeteria were expanded.

Since 1963, standard for educational space – including general classroom size, special education space, and lab space – have changed. Based on today’s state standards, architects calculate the capacity of AHS is approximately 1,400 students. Enrollment has fluctuated between 1,647 and 1,806 in the past 20 years.
Andover High School is overcrowded. Based on current educational state standards, it is lacking in both number and size of classrooms. According to MGT’s report, the school’s current enrollment means its space ranks as “inadequate” with a utilization rate of 117%. The pressure for space at this facility is predicted to increase.

Initial analysis by HMFH Architects showed 80 percent of Andover High’s core classrooms are smaller than the recommended 850 to 950 square feet, 72 percent of science classrooms are smaller than the recommended 1,000 to 1,400 square feet, and special needs space is only 53 percent of the recommended area. Based on current standards used by the Mass School Building Authority (MSBA) for academic areas, the capacity of AHS is approximately 1,400 students. However, the school’s current enrollment stands near 1,700. Demographic projections show an increase to over 1,900 projected in the next twenty years.

Shared spaces are also too small or insufficient in number. The limited size of the current cafeteria and serving area requires four lunch periods, each with 450 students moving through tight spaces, complicating and disrupting class schedules. The library is roughly half the size needed for the current enrollment. About 25 rooms designed for other uses—including teacher workrooms and teacher dining areas—have been converted into classroom space, and remaining teacher resource areas are crowded and poorly distributed.

To accommodate student schedules, 75 percent of faculty members must shuttle among multiple classrooms each day with no appropriate space to prepare lessons, evaluate student work, store materials, or meet with students. Teachers are scattered throughout the building instead of being grouped by department, which impedes professional collaboration.

Small classrooms and inflexible furnishings limit instructional options and negate the opportunity for some educational services, including areas for hands-on experimentation and collaboration, for student projects that require extensive space to complete over a period of days or weeks, and for advanced-level classes that enroll small numbers of students. Students are turned away from some popular classes because the small, repurposed instructional areas cannot hold all the students who wish to enroll.

Other concerns: No fire sprinklers exist in 65 percent of the building, including the entire original building, the Dunn Gym and the Collins Center; the fire alarm is not audible in all areas; certain areas of the school are difficult to monitor for security; the site needs improvement for accessibility, traffic flow and avoidance of vehicular and pedestrian conflicts; mechanical systems—particularly those that support climate control—are ineffectual and beyond their usable life; windows are beginning to fail; the Collins Center floods periodically as a result of the high water table near the orchestra pit; water in the science labs is often unusable for experiments because of undesirable color and temperature; and there is an insufficient number of classroom/office electrical outlets, elevators (only one to serve the entire school), and accessible restroom facilities and other features that promote accessibility.
The climate control systems in Andover High are well maintained and actively managed, even earning Energy Star rating for the efficiency of current systems. However, these current systems rely on old technology and major components — including boilers and unit ventilators — that are reaching the end of useful life and need replacement.

HVAC experts have observed that meaningful replacement of Andover High’s aging climate control technology would best be supported by also upgrading other critical energy components. For example, almost all high school windows are drafty and do not sufficiently block UV light, allowing heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer.

But most notably, the current building is constructed of concrete with no insulation in the original exterior walls and with floors that create a “thermal bridge” by extending past the building façade, thereby drawing heat out of the building in the winter and increasing room temperatures in the warmer months. Replacing the extensive unit ventilator system without also addressing the building envelope of the original building would provide only very limited climate improvement.

Additionally, in each classroom, unit ventilators bring outside air into the building to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. When rooms are overcrowded, CO2 increases faster than heating elements can keep up with the airflow, resulting in cold outside air being blown into classrooms throughout the winter. The unit ventilators are also loud and distract from learning.

A facility project that simply replaces unit ventilators in-kind—rather than upgrading the heating technology and improving the building envelope—will bring a continuation of the same climate control problems, and may not even save money in the long run.

In addition to solving these problems, a modern climate system would bring an opportunity for replacing the unit ventilation system with a displacement air system similar to the system installed at Bancroft Elementary. This would increase comfort during shoulder seasons and allow year-round use of the building.

Design and Planning

The Andover High School Facility Study Committee was formed in January 2017 to conduct a preliminary feasibility study with HMFH Architects.

The Committee’s goals were to explore options for building improvements in these interrelated areas:

1. Safety and security (code upgrades, supervision, security system) 2. Overcrowding (classroom and cafeteria space for current and future enrollment) 3. Educational delivery (instructional space, teacher planning, flexibility/adaptability) 4. Physical environment (temperature control, ventilation, acoustics, lighting) 5. Site (traffic flow and parking, emergency access, field improvements)

During more than 50 community and public meetings, including weekly meetings with the architects, 11 project options of varying scope were developed and considered. The options fell into three primary categories:

A. safety and security upgrade only, with ongoing significant maintenance B. new addition plus major renovation of the existing school structure C. new school building, with option to maintain the field house and Collins Center as community assets

Importantly, the preliminary feasibility study did not find an option that addressed both the educational delivery and the physical environment of the building for less than $100 million. No previous space or architectural study of Andover High had identified the extent of work required to modernize aspects of the facility that improve building systems and comfort. Specifically, significant energy and HVAC improvements are only possible if both the mechanical systems and a large portion of the building exterior envelope are replaced, which alone would cost more than $40 million.

The work to refine options, solicit community feedback, and make recommendation to the School Committee and Select Board for a building project now continues with the AHS Building Committee.
Over the past decades, education has changed significantly. Not only are we providing high-quality programming and services for students with disabilities that require particular kinds of spaces, but the very nature of how we educate students has evolved. The curriculum has expanded to include such subjects as engineering, robotics, programming, and graphics that require space for specialized equipment, as well as space for student projects and for students to work in collaborative teams.

Most courses now integrate project-based learning and collaborative group work, requiring that classroom space be capable of being organized in different ways for changing activities. With a more personalized curriculum, schools require media centers and other areas where students can work either privately or in small groups on projects, online courses, and research.

In addition, a number of courses are now co-taught, integrating two subject areas such as English and social studies into American Studies and World Studies courses. Spaces to accommodate new teaching methodologies and new curricula are being designed into all new-school construction. A renovation or reconstruction of Andover High School would provide for an enriched and expanded curriculum and learning experience for students.
The existing Andover High School opened in 1968 and does not contain a 21st Century Design learning environment that can be found in newly constructed schools within neighboring communities. The existing mechanical system is comprised of unit ventilators which run frequently due to overcrowding/poor building envelope, causing disruptions to students. Drastic improvements have been made to the design of acoustics and lighting since the original building was designed. The following image demonstrates features of a 21st Century classroom:
The 2022-23 school year enrollment at Andover High is slightly over 1700 students; however, based on the current MSBA space summary template, the current school building is appropriately sized for approximately 1400 students.   Many classroom spaces are undersized according to design standards. The school also has over 100 clubs competing for space, and robust music, theatrical & athletic programs. Many spaces are unable to be used for their original purpose (conference rooms and closets have been converted to classrooms), and there is very limited space for breakout learning opportunities. The noisy mechanical systems cause acoustical issues as well.

A demographic study was conducted in October 2017 by Cropper GIS, an outside company with expertise in school population projection. The analysis considered Andover-specific factors including housing turnover, community demographics, mobility rates, developable land and zoning. A report and presentation were delivered by the demographer, and a target enrollment for Andover High School construction was set at 1,900 students.

In August 2022, Cropper GIS was contracted by the AHS Building Committee to again look at enrollment projections, with consideration that several things have changed including: downward trend of public school enrollment statewide during COVID, and construction of the new, larger West Elementary & Shawsheen Preschool facilities. Previous Andover-specific study elements including home sales, population ages, land use and zoning will again be validated as part of the update.
Some factors to consider in making a decision between new construction and an addition/renovation include:

  • New construction is more costly than an addition plus renovation.
  • An addition plus renovation may be more environmentally friendly if it creates less demolition waste by reusing large parts of a building we already have.
  • An addition plus renovation would have less impact on athletics because playing fields would largely be maintained, whereas new construction would likely take the space of existing playing fields.
  • A newly constructed building would have a shorter construction timeline than a comprehensive addition plus renovation project.
  • A newly constructed building would have a shorter construction timeline than a comprehensive addition plus renovation project.
  • New construction would have a limited impact on academics during construction. While any renovation would be phased to minimize disruption, renovations are inherently complicated and disruptive.
  • The phased approach of an addition/renovation project would also drive a longer construction timeline than would a new building.
  • Once open, a newly constructed building would be more efficient to operate than an addition/renovation, with fewer break/fix activities and more routine maintenance.
  • Like many districts that saw baby boomer population spikes, Andover undertook several school building projects in the 1950s and 1960s and has a history of building or renovating multiple schools at the same time. As a results, there are school that will reach the end of their useful lives concurrently.

    West Elementary, Doherty Middle, and Sanborn Elementary were all built in 1951. Andover High School, Sanborn Elementary, and South Elementary were partially renovated in 1995. High Plain Elementary and Wood Hill Middle were built in 2002. Those schools have aged significantly and/or outgrown their capacity over time.

    In 2016, the town hired a national facility assessment and planning organization (MGT of America Consulting) to assess the state of all town and school facilities and help develop a long-term plan to address facility needs. The study concluded that the school facilities with the greatest needs were: Shawsheen Preschool, West Elementary and Doherty Middle School due to facility condition; and Andover High School due to overcrowding condition.

    After a public engagement process, including public forums and tours West Elementary, Doherty and Andover High, in 2016 the School Committee submitted West Elementary as a priority project for partnership with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) and, in parallel, established the Andover High School Feasibility Study Committee to examine options for a high school project.

    West Elementary was accepted into the MSBA program and the project scope extends to also replace Shawsheen Preschool. The work to determine an appropriate high school project is ongoing.
    The completion timeline will depend on the scope of project undertaken by the community.

    The project is currently in the Feasibility Study phase, and the architect (HMFH) is gathering requirements, developing various design options, and estimating costs. This information will be provided to the community for feedback, and with that, the Building Committee will make a recommendation to the School Committee and Select Board around the scope of a potential project. This is anticipated for Spring 2023.

    The project will then move into the Schematic Design phase where the design of the project will continue to progress and cost estimates will be updated accordingly.

    Towards the end of Schematic Design, in the Winter of 2023-2024, the scope and budget of the project will be refined to allow for a Town Vote where residents will choose to either approve or deny funding of the proposed project.

    If approved, it is anticipated that there will at least be one more year of design, followed by roughly 2.5-4.5 years of construction. It is anticipated a renovation project will take a year longer than a new construction project.
    The project team has started meeting with Andover HS staff & students, facilities, Andover Police & Fire, and various other Town Departments to refine existing conditions analyses and establish project goals and requirements for the building and site. The project team is also holding visioning sessions and space programming meetings with educators and students to assist Andover with planning/educational delivery, and determine the types, number, size, and adjacencies of spaces within the building.

    The project team has also started to hold sustainability charrettes and community forums to gain insight as to what Andover residents feel are important energy efficient options, sustainable design elements, and overall building/site features that they would be hoping to see in the new project.

    As information is gathered during these meetings, the project team is refining the design to create project options to best suit the needs of Andover.
    HMFH Architects was hired as the Project Designer; however, the Town’s educators will define the design intent, with input from the appropriate Town Departments/ entities, and feedback from the public.
    While the preferred option has not yet been determined, Andover Public Schools feels confident saying that any option (new or add/reno) will greatly offset negative impacts that the Covid pandemic has caused. A new or renovated school will include:

  • The right number of educational spaces
  • Larger instructional spaces
  • Flexible furniture
  • Improved mechanical systems (ventilation)
  • Breakout learning areas
  • Larger cafeteria
  • Opportunities for outdoor learning
  • There have been multiple rounds of Sustainability Charettes to outline the Town’s sustainability-related desires for the project (presentations/recording are available under Stay Engaged – Follow & Attend Meetings).

    While the preferred option has not yet been determined, and will have a large role in the design team’s ability to incorporate specific sustainability measures, the project team has been advised to design to the standards of the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) Green Schools Program Policy LEED-Silver at a minimum while exceeding the level of energy efficiency required in the current MA Energy Code by 20% using the LEED-Silver Optimize Energy Performance credit submittal (per Andover Public Schools New Construction standard).
    The project team intends to involve students in all phases of the project, from initial concept design through construction and building turnover, including participation of a student representative to the Building Committee. There have already been multiple design workshops with students involved at this initial design phase including a sustainability workshop and an interactive workshop-style meeting with representatives from the student clubs. Once a preferred construction option is determined, the project team will use student input to refine and optimize the design.
    Both the Collins Center and Field House are important assets in constant use by Andover schools and the community, so there has been particular consideration given to ways these two buildings could be incorporated in potential designs.

    The preferred design option has not yet been determined; however, the "new building" option remaining under consideration as of February 2023 will include one option for maintaining and renovating the existing Collins Center, and a second option which removes the Collins Center from the site and puts a new theater within a new high school facility. The "add/renovation" option would include renovation of the Collins Center.

    All remaining construction concepts involve maintaining the existing Field House.

    Each design discussed to date would provide new or renovated entrances to the Field House and to the Collins Center, should it remain.

    Factors under consideration with respect to the Collins Center include: cost to meet accessibility and safety requirements in an renovation (including elevator access to multiple levels), right-sizing an auditorium for school and community use, and the appropriateness of location on the high school site.

    Please see the FAQ, "Why should the town consider a new auditorium in a future project?" for additional information.
    The Collins Center was built in 1983 and is now more than 40 years old. It underwent partial renovation in 1995 and the exterior was partially renovated in 2017. It is 38,930 square feet, 3+ levels, and houses 1,200 seats. The site and building location - which is within the wetland setback - bring challenges including: - flooding impacting the orchestra pit - location constricts opportunities for development - entrance, access and parking are restricted Additionally, there are several areas where the facility would benefit from upgrades: - Extensive upgrades are required to mechanical HCAC systems to improve air quality, energy efficiency, and acoustics - Upgrade fire protection sprinklers - Improve house seating egress and access - Fully renovate control rooms and follow-spot positions - New theater equipment: sound system, lighting, acoustic performance shells, orchestra pit access and platforms, assistive listening system, and rigging - Improve interior and exterior accessibility at the front-of-house and back-of-house spaces, circulation, and security The below visual provides a visual comparison between the current Collins Center and a modern theater, using the Arlington High facility as an example. Highlights of the modern auditorium include: - full accessibility at front, middle and back of house, as well as in control room - tunable acoustics for theatrical and musical use - unobstructed sight-lines - lack of mechanical noise - cross-house aisles behind the stage (versus travel from stage right to left around the entire house in the Collins Center) - balcony with last row closer to the stage (75’ in this example) than in the Collins Center (120’), creating a more intimate space
    Inclusion of parking structure versus surface parking on the Andover High campus frees up space on site for additional program elements.

    There are 87 acres on the existing site. Westlands take up 23 acres plus 6 acres of setbacks. The high school and middle school facilities are 8 acres. Athletic facilities are 24 acres, surface parking is 5.8 acres, and the hill/ledge is 2.3 acres. This leaves approximately 17.9 remaining acres including access and roadways, and the project seeks to maximize use of this space.

    500 spaces would take up approximately 1 acre with a garage versus 4 acres of surface parking. These 3 saved acres is approximately equal to the size of 1 varsity baseball field.

    A parking structure provides additional potential benefits including:
    - covered parking for staff
    - opportunity for additional solar panel coverage
    - value to community in optimizing the site layout
    - less area for snow removal and salt/sand distribution
    - less impervious space on site, resulting in better rainwater infiltration and fewer impacts from solar "heat island" effects

    No decision has been made about inclusion of a garage. The project team intends to price this option for community feedback.
    All potential add/renovation options (as well as the option that creates a new building) include removal of the current science wing.

    Please click on the image to view an enlarged visual of where the science wing is currently located, and the deficiencies identified by the architect team.


    Yes, the community could decide not to undertake renovation or replacement of Andover High. If the community does nothing, it is estimated more than $20 million will still need to be spent over the next ten years on the existing building, including maintenance costs, replacement of boilers, replacement of heating and ventilation units as they fail, and upgrades for ADA compliance. The town will also need to update the fire prevention and sprinkler system at an additional cost of more than $7 million.

    Moreover, a “do nothing” approach would fail to address identified deficiencies in the physical condition of the school and site and their corresponding impact on the educational program.
    In general, significant facility projects are funded by the town through a debt exclusion. In this process, voters give the town permission to borrow money outside the limitations of Massachusetts Proposition 2½, and taxes are increased to pay back the loan during the term of repayment (usually 30 years).

    The town would ask voters for this approval in two separate forums, first at Town Meeting (which requires 2/3 affirmative vote to pass) and then by holding a ballot box vote (which requires a simple majority). Both votes would need to pass in order to approve the debt exclusion.
    The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) is a government authority that assists in the funding of capital improvement projects for Massachusetts public schools. In order to obtain entry into the MSBA’s grant program, a city/town/school district is required to submit a Statement of Interest (SOI) to the MSBA for the intended school(s) needing assistance and listing among many things, the building deficiencies, current/projected enrollments, impacts to educational delivery, etc. The MSBA then reviews each SOI application and decides which projects are accepted into the MSBA’s Eligibility Period (process in which towns/cities/districts are required to establish a school building committee, secure local funding approval, etc.).

    The Town of Andover had pursued a partnership with the MSBA for funding assistance with Andover High School; however, the SOI was denied eight times by the MSBA between 2008 and 2021.

    After the latest rejection, and with acceptance of West Elementary School into the MSBA pipeline, the town believes Andover High School will not be accepted until the West Elementary School is completed and closed out (projected for 2026) at the earliest. Even then, acceptance from the MSBA is not guaranteed.

    In review of the estimated costs of funding the project internally versus waiting until 2026 in the hopes of MSBA grant participation, town and school administration determined that funding the project internally at a marginally higher initial cost outweighs the impacts of delaying the project which include the following: continued/potentially increasing maintenance costs, increase in design/construction costs due to escalation, continued impacts to student learning, diminishing effective MSBA reimbursement rates, etc.

    Additionally, the current enrollment of Andover High School is 1,709 students and per a study performed by Cropper and MGT of America (contracted by Andover Public Schools to do so), the projected enrollment in the next 20 years will be ~1,900 students. Proceeding without MSBA funding allows the Town to design the project without MSBA space programming constraints, potential enrollment constraints, and the design schedule will not be pursuant to the MSBA Board of Directors schedule.
    This is not a written MSBA policy; however, the project team has reviewed every individual city/town in Massachusetts within the MSBA Project database and aside from Boston, there are two other communities that appear to have two active core (non-accelerated roof/boiler repair projects) each: Lawrence & Springfield. Both cities have the MSBA-maximum 80% reimbursement rate for their projects. There are no Towns within the state with multiple active core projects (as of this writing in early Feb 2023).
    Two independent 3rd-party construction cost estimators will perform construction cost estimates twice during the initial design phase (initial and Schematic Design estimates). In both rounds of estimating, the cost estimates will be reconciled against one another to verify both estimators understand the scope and any variance in estimated costs are within industry standards.

    Due to the preliminary nature of the initial cost estimates, estimators will rely on current cost/SF standards plus appropriate markups for: Contingency (Construction, Design, and Pricing), Cost Escalation, Insurance, General Conditions, Temporary Costs, and other Construction Manager requirements/fees.

    Preliminary cost estimate information will inform high-level decision making, and a second round of cost estimating will be performed once the Designer has completed Schematic Design Documents for pricing in an effort to keep the scope within budget as the design evolves.

    Schematic Design cost estimate reconciliation is more detailed and involves deconstructing cost estimates and discussing quantity takeoffs and unit prices of each building component. The Schematic Design construction cost estimates will be used to determine the total project budget moving forward.
    Andover High School is not only a school, but also a community center that hosts arts, athletics and community education events. The high school is used seven days a week from early morning until late in the evening and accommodates many community functions. A facility that can support an array of community activities adds value to all the residents in a community.

    In addition, the quality of education in a community has a direct impact on the attractiveness of the community to homebuyers and, as a result, on the property value of homes. Families desiring to send their children to high-performing schools are able to choose among communities. A critical factor in that choice is the physical condition and attractiveness of the schools that children will attend. Because all children in Andover will attend Andover High School (unless they choose a private school), homebuyers and the community as a whole have a strong interest in the conditions at Andover High School. Therefore, maintenance of school facilities is a valuable investment that provides a return to everyone in the community.

    Research shows that the physical condition of the learning environment has a strong influence on student performance. Conditions such as temperature control, ventilation, lighting, and sufficiency of space are factors that affect learning. To maintain the high quality of performance Andover has achieved and to sustain the attractiveness of its schools in comparison to surrounding communities, it is essential that Andover’s school facilities provide sufficient space for current educational programming as well as physical conditions that support high-quality learning.


    In early 2022, the AHS Facility Study Committee recommended to the School Committee a Building Committee be formed to move the project toward design and construction.

    The School Committee then voted to have the Town Manager create the Andover High School Building Committee, with the charge of developing plans for either (a) an addition and renovation of the existing high school or (b) a new high school. This came after the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) denied Andover’s request to help fund an Andover High project for the eighth time since 2008.

    The Town Manager issued a solicitation to the community, conducted interviews, and ultimately selected a Building Committee comprised of a cross-section of Andover residents and other experts with construction, educational, and financial experience. The Building Committee began its work in the summer of 2022.
    The town has a robust maintenance program and the Department of Facilities employs staff in the trades of carpentry, energy management, HVAC, painting, plumbing, masonry, security, electrical and fire systems. The department also manages maintenance and construction projects and uses in-house staff for many small construction projects throughout the schools.

    At each school, custodians regularly perform minor repairs and preventive maintenance in addition to routine operations such as cleaning and stocking. Additionally, the town work control center has tradespeople on call around the clock to address repair needs, major equipment services, and acute problems.

    Andover buildings are well maintained and run efficiently. We are not in need of facility improvements because of a lack of maintenance. Instead, renovations or additions are being considered because some buildings have passed their expected lifespans and/or exceed the enrollment for which they were designed, particularly as educational requirements and space standards have changed over time.
    Yes, the high school will continue to be maintained and improved, particularly with respect to safety and security. As systems need repair, they will be replaced. Nothing will be left in a state of failure.

    However, major capital projects—such as a request for new boilers—will be postponed until the community has settled on an upgrade path for Andover High.
    Andover is one of the few communities in eastern Massachusetts that has not invested in a new high school or undergone a major renovation of an existing high school in the past 25 years.

    For example, fairly new high schools can be found in the nearby communities of West Newbury/ Groveland/ Merrimac (Pentucket Regional opened 2022), Billerica (2019), Winchester (2017), North Reading (2015), Wilmington (2015), Methuen (2014), Dracut (2014), Tewksbury (2012), Bedford (2008), Lawrence (2007), Reading (2007), Chelmsford (2006), Woburn (2006) and North Andover (2004).

    Belmont, Stoneham, Lexington, Lowell, Somerville, Wakefield, and Waltham are also currently in various stages of building new high schools.
    Ultimately, the Andover community will need to decide the level of financial investment that should be made to improve the high school facility.

    The Andover High School Building Committee has the critical goal of gaining community feedback and adjusting potential options to meet community expectations.

    In addition to attending building committee meetings and community forums, you are encouraged to reach out to members of each facility committee or the School Committee to provide your thoughts. Andover High School Facility Study Committee members may be contacted at: andoverhighbuildingproject@andoverma.us.