MORE THAN 300 students are put on a waiting list for spots at Northeast Metro Tech each year. The new proposed building would increase capacity from 1,300 to 1,600 students. (Northeast Metro Tech image)
WAKEFIELD — Superintendent David DiBarri and the Northeast Metro Tech Building Committee announce that voters across the district’s 12 sending communities will have the opportunity to approve plans for a new state-of-the-art school building next Tuesday, January 25.
Northeast currently serves about 1,300 students in its career technical education programs, but only has the capacity to accept 41 percent of applicants each year. Another 1,300 post-graduates and adults benefit from Northeast’s night or weekend training programs to advance their careers.
However, Northeast was built in 1968 and the facility has outlived its intended lifespan. Classrooms and shops are overcrowded, systems are outdated, and the building does not comply with Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.
“A team made up of Northeast officials, School Committee members from all 12 communities that Northeast serves, and construction experts has spent more than four years developing a plan for a new building. This team has worked in partnership with officials in sending communities, listening to suggestions and concerns, to develop a building plan that is cost-effective and fiscally responsible,” Superintendent DiBarri stated.
The 12 communities are: Chelsea, Malden, Melrose, North Reading, Reading, Revere, Saugus, Stoneham, Wakefield, Winchester, Winthrop, Woburn.
The project is estimated to cost $317.4 million. The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) awarded the District a grant of up to $140.8 million in August 2021, the most in its history to that point. The remaining cost would be shared by the sending communities through the issuance of a 30-year construction bond, starting in Fiscal Year 2026.
At Town Meeting last October, North Reading’s voters overwhelmingly approved appropriating the funds to cover the town’s share of the cost and the town was one of 10 communities to do so. Two of the 12 communities did not approve it, making the district-wide vote necessary. A simple majority from all votes cast throughout the district is needed to pass the plan.
The new school will feature 21st-century learning environments, improved Individualized Education Program (IEP) accommodations, state-of-the-art shop space, expanded program offerings, a new primary access roadway from Farm Street to reduce traffic congestion, a full-size gym, a 750-seat auditorium, outdoor space for learning, and a new cafeteria. The compact, four-story design will feature a double-height library rotunda.
With a focus on sustainability, the project is targeting LEED Silver+ certification with energy-efficient mechanical systems, provisions for solar panels, and vegetated roofs.
The MSBA grant offer includes a deadline to accept or decline. If voters do not approve the referendum, the District would have to start the multi-year MSBA process from the beginning, delaying construction by several years and increasing costs to taxpayers.
“Northeast Metro Tech’s goal is to help every student reach their full potential and to find employment in high-paying, high-demand jobs upon graduation,” DiBarri said. “All of the work that has gone into developing this proposed project and presenting it to our communities for approval has been done with those core goals in mind.”
Polls open 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Voters will be asked whether they support the school plan at a special referendum on Jan. 25. Citizens who were registered voters as of Jan. 5 are eligible to cast a ballot. Polls will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in each community.
The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot was Wednesday, Jan. 19. Absentee ballots returned by U.S. mail must arrive at Town Hall by the end of the business day on Tuesday. Absentee ballots may also be hand-delivered to the Town Clerk’s office between now and Election Day or deposited in the ballot drop-off box in front of Town Hall by 6 p.m. on Election Day, at which time the box will be locked. The ballot box is clearly marked with a red, white and blue flag design. Do not deposit ballots into the square silver drop-off box mounted to the building that is designated for paying bills and taxes.
All North Reading voters from the town’s four precincts cast their in-person ballots at one central location, St. Theresa’s Parish Hall, 63 Winter St. Social distancing protocols will be in place and masks are required (unless a person cannot wear a mask due to medical reasons or is under age 5).
Voters with questions about voting or their polling location are asked to contact the Town Clerk’s office.