Published in the December 13, 2018 edition.
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — The town’s hopes for state assistance with building a new high school were dashed for at least another year as yesterday the Massachusetts School Building Authority turned down Wakefield’s request to get into the MSBA’s program.
The Massachusetts School Building Authority is a quasi-independent public agency that provides grants that partially fund municipal and regional school districts for kindergarten through high school construction and renovation projects.
School Superintendent Douglas Lyons and Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio issued a joint statement in the wake of yesterday’s disappointing news.
“Earlier this year, the Town of Wakefield submitted a Statement of Interest (SOI) to partner with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) in the design and construction of a new or renovated high school facility,” the statement read. “The MSBA notified the Town of Wakefield that Wakefield Memorial High School (WMHS) would not be invited into the MSBA’s 2018 Eligibility Period and will not be considered for state funding for building improvements during this year’s eligibility cycle. The MSBA will, however, accept our new SOI for consideration in the next annual cycle, beginning in 2019.
“The MSBA received over 70 requests from 56 school districts for consideration in 2018. The MSBA sorted these based on urgent need. To identify urgent need status, MSBA considers many factors, with the top three criteria being 1) safety, 2) overcrowding, and 3) accreditation warning. WMHS does not fully meet the first two criteria. However, we have been notified that our accreditation status will change from warning to probation due to our aging facility.
“MSBA has reported that they are committed to collaborating and partnering with the Town of Wakefield to better understand the high school facility issues and will support the resubmission of a new SOI in 2019. It is not uncommon for a school not to be selected in the first few submissions to the MSBA, so we remain hopeful for consideration in 2019-20. In the interim,” the statement from Lyons and Maio concluded, “we will work with the Permanent Building Committee, School Committee, Department of Public Works, and town leaders to review and address areas of critical need in order to continue to provide the highest quality education for the students of Wakefield.”
While Wakefield’s quest for a new high school will have to wait, neighboring Stoneham got better news. The MSBA Board of Directors yesterday voted to invite Stoneham High School into the MSBA’s eligibility period. During the 270-day eligibility period, the MSBA will work with Stoneham to determine the district’s financial and community readiness to enter the MSBA capital pipeline.
The following communities were also invited into the MSBA’s new eligibility period: Brookline (John R. Pierce School); Haverhill (Dr. Albert B. Consentino School); Hull (Hull Memorial Middle School); Norwood (Dr. Philip O. Coakley Middle School); Peabody (William A. Welch Elementary School); Revere (Revere High School); Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District (David Prouty High School); Tyngsborough (Tyngsborough Middle School); Walpole (Bird Middle School); Webster (Bartlett Junior/Senior High School); and Westfield (Franklin Avenue Elementary School).
In 2012, Wakefield was approved for MSBA funding assistance for building the $74 million new Galvin Middle School. The MSBA reimbursed the town for over 50 percent of eligible costs for the Galvin.
In 2016, an architectural firm studying the existing conditions at Wakefield Memorial High School estimated that the cost of a building new high school would be in the range of $124 million.