By November 9, each municipality must determine whether it approves the project and, therefore, its share of the costs, which are split according to the number of students each community sends to the school.
District officials said the project was vital in meeting the many facility needs with the existing 53-year-old building and allowing the school to enroll more students. If it goes ahead, it would be Massachusetts’ costliest vocational school construction project to date.
“When the school committee voted to approve the school, we recognized that it was the most historic and important vote the school committee has ever taken,” said David DiBarri, superintendent -School principal. “Not only will this allow our students to learn in a modern, state-of-the-art institution, but it will also increase the opportunities for so many students who would otherwise be left on the waiting list. “
Founded in 1964, the 1,300-student school offers career programs in 16 fields ranging from auto repair and culinary arts, robotics and automation, as well as college courses. Its main communities are Chelsea, Malden, Melrose, North Reading, Reading, Revere, Saugus, Stoneham, Wakefield, Winchester, Winthrop and Woburn.
DiBarri said the existing 240,000 square foot building is overcrowded, does not have adequate resources for students with special needs, and lacks “the kinds of space needed for courses that a 21st century professional institution should provide. “. He also cited faulty mechanical and electrical systems and the exterior of a building in need of modernization.
“We currently have a very old building and we try to offer our students new, inventive things every day, and we have to be able to have a top notch facility and the tools to do that,” Judy Dyment said. from North Reading. , vice-chairman of the Northeast School Committee, adding that the project is also timely given the growing demand for skilled workers in the economy.
Noting that many communities have built or planned new schools, she said vocational students “deserve the same.”
The proposed four-story building would provide the additional space needed to expand the district’s student population to 1,600, reducing a waiting list that averages over 300 students per year, DiBarri said.
The new building would be organized into small “learning communities” with technical career workshops located near university classrooms. It would also include a new 750-seat auditorium and a 12,000-square-foot gym.
The design, created by Drummey Rosane Anderson, Architects, includes features to improve safety during a pandemic, including a “robust and sophisticated ventilation system”, expanded learning spaces, outdoor educational spaces and a training area. larger and improved nurses, said DiBarri.
Given the large grant the School Building Authority has given to the project, DiBarri said he was “very optimistic that our cities and our city will see this as an opportunity to act now despite the challenges for any new school.”
Communities can vote to approve or reject the loan, or to take no action, which will signify their support. Depending on their finances, communities that agree to support the project may choose to seek voter approval for a debt exclusion – or a tax increase for the years needed to pay off the debt – to fund their share, but these votes should not be taken. before the Nov. 9 deadline, DiBarri said.
If the project progresses, the new school is expected to open at the end of 2025 and the overall project will be completed by next summer.
John Laidler can be contacted at [email protected].