Over the last year, a completely new set of science labs have been designed and constructed in Melrose’s own high school. In total, the new space contains nine lab/classroom combinations and prep rooms. The renovations were intended to modernize the science department. The new middle hallway is lined with a number of posters honoring and detailing the lives of many famous scientists, including Nikola Tesla for example, as well as Sewall Wright who was born here in Melrose. Cole O'Brien's iRaiders mural still remains in the main hallway. Just looking down at the floor shows the transition from the old hall to the new labs: fresh white and green tiles, rather than the worn brown ones.
The classrooms each contain both standard equipment and a few features dependent on the specific class’s subject. Each room has between 10 and 12 computers with flexible mounts, as well as goggle storage, eyewashes, a shower, and multiple sinks and gas outlets. For safety purposes, the science labs are hooked up to a different water system, because there can be problems in the labs that may contaminate the water. Therefore it is considered unsafe to drink from the water in the labs, even though the chances of the water getting contaminated are very slim. Most of the physics-oriented labs have extended power outlets with extension cords attached, as well as a heavy load-bearing bar for pendulum experiments. The majority of the Biology labs have a space for hanging plants. The chemistry labs have large vacuum hoods for working with potentially dangerous fumes. Every lab with windows is equipped with blackout shades, capable of completely cutting off natural light.
The labs, while certainly high quality, did not come cheap. Melrose High was among six schools in Massachusetts to qualify for a part of a large city budget to improve school buildings. The overall cost of the renovations to the 18,000 square feet labs was about 5.2 million dollars. Of this large budget project, $250,000 went to the furniture alone (benches, stools, tables). Design work began in June 2012, construction started in February of 2013, and the overall time of the build was about six months.
In a public interview about the improvement of the schools, Mayor Rob Dolan revealed some further information regarding construction of the labs and potentially other big projects coming up. The following information has been confirmed by the city planner, Denise Gaffey: the new labs were a part of a large city initiative to improve the high school over time without disrupting the school year (like the middle school remodel).
By: Duncan McLeod