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City Heads Into Next Phase of Approvals for New Middle School

The journey toward a new middle school in Peabody is still only halfway through the journey of local and state approvals and designs needed before construction can finally begin.

The next step in the chain of approvals for Peabody's new middle school is for the board of directors at the Mass. School Building Authority to approve schematic designs and a detailed budget the local project team submitted on Valentine's Day.

Once that happens, a funding proposal would be submitted to the City Council -- that would also be subject to review by the MSBA -- and once that agreement is in place, still more detailed plans will be drawn up in order to put the construction project out to bid.

The School Committee voted Feb. 12 to send along the schematics for the new Higgins Middle School to the MSBA, following up on a recent public presentation of those plans. The MSBA board will make a decision at its April 3 meeting.

One other item decided upon last week was to also budget $100,000 to hire a Clerk of the Works to manage the day-to-day project management once construction begins. No potential candidates were identified.

So far the projected timeline for the new school is to break ground in June 2014 and have the new school completed in the summer of 2016. At that point, students would move into the new school and the existing 48-year-old building would be torn down and replaced with new athletic fields.

According to budget figures from when the MSBA green-lighted the project for a new school last summer, the total estimated cost is just shy of $90 million with the city paying approximately $42 million.

The city, however, is banking on some additional incentive reimbursement points from the MSBA to increase that percentage from 53 to about 59 percent. That depends on incorporating green construction standards or a comprehensive facility maintenance plan, for example.

The new school would be three stories, state-of-the-art, designed for 1,340 students and separate all students by grade, all in a smaller footprint and with greater energy efficiency than the current building.

Check out the Higgins building project website for more information.

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