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Decision Possible Next Week on Future of Higgins School

School Building Committee will decide whether to renovate or build new school.

A decision may finally be coming next week from the School Building Committee on whether or not Peabody will .

The committee is currently faced with three foreseeable options: gut the original 47-year-old building and renovate, construct a new customized school or build a new model school. Model schools have been promoted by the Mass. School Building Authority as cost-effective and easy-to-maintain ways to build state-of-the-art schools with successful designs from other building projects.

Preliminary estimates by project architects say Peabody would pick up about $33 million on a full renovation with addition, $40 million for a new customized school and about $36 million for a model school.

Mayor Ted Bettencourt, who favors building a new school given the relatively close costs, said this week that the building committee would meet with the MSBA on Monday morning to review available options one more time before taking the aforementioned vote.

The group is then scheduled to meet Thursday afternoon at the . The committee was supposed to meet this week, but postponed the session until March 8 in order to meet with the MSBA first.

Bettencourt says the group will hopefully be ready to vote then. Even though it is unlikely the group will buck the mayor’s stance on the project, the final decision does remain with the School Building Committee.

Worth noting is that Peabody would only get a look at a specific model school design once it entered the program, and the Higgins is the largest middle school in the state. Three nearby districts have participated in the model school program for their middle schools: Lynnfield, Ipswich and Manchester-Essex (the last two, however, built combined grades 6-12 schools in recent years).

Should the vote be for a new model school, a three-story structure, using less square footage and footprint space than the existing structure, would be built on ball fields adjacent to the Higgins. One obvious advantage would be that students could remain in the Higgins until the new school was finished in 2015.

After that vote, a joint session of the regular School Committee and City Council will be held on the project, which will largely be informational, although at some point a proposal would come back for funding. The project is also subject to the final approval of the MSBA.

diane March 02, 2012 at 03:33 PM
What will happen to the Fields at the High School? Will be build a new Football and Baseball Field? and what about traffic on Lowell Street? I don't like the idea of teenagers driving around the younger kids and no one follows the traffic pattern at the HIgh School anyway. I like the idea of a three story building and a new building by why not build it at the current location. - what happens to that land if we build at the High SChool?
Peter March 03, 2012 at 03:14 PM
What are you talking about? "a three-story structure, using less square footage and footprint space than the existing structure, would be built on ball fields adjacent to the Higgins. One obvious advantage would be that students could remain in the Higgins until the new school was finished in 2015." I ask again...what are you talking about?
Linda Raymond March 04, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Diane, I think you are confused. The article clearly states that a new school would be built on the fields adjacent to the middle school (directly across from the Police Station...) It says nothing about building on the high school property. That being said, to me this is a no-brainer. The city just needs to bite the bullet and do what so many other surrounding communities have done and build a new middle school for our kids. It doesn't matter whether it is a custom or model build. It just needs to be a new, state of the art facility that will bring our schools up to par with neighboring communities and be something that our kids can be proud of. Higgins is completely antiquated and it would require much more work to remodel it than to rebuild it in terms of relocating students and staff, removing hazardous materials and renovating the Kiley for short-term usage. Peabody needs to do what many of our neighbors on the North Shore have done (Beverly, Danvers, Ipswich, Marblehead, Swampscott, Lynnfield etc) and build both a new Middle School and High School that our teachers, parents & students can be proud of. A city the size of Peabody with such a large corporate tax base, should have no problem financing these projects. It is an investment in our children's future and it has been put off for way too long in favor of low taxes...You get what you pay for and our children are not getting what they deserve.
Peter March 04, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Well said Linda. I can only hope that the city administration shares your view on this matter.

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