Town and state officials, educators, parents and students celebrate new school construction
By Mark E. Vogler
Saugus school officials, town leaders, state officials, teachers, parents and students got a chance to play together in a ceremonial sandbox Tuesday afternoon as construction officially began on the future Saugus Middle-High School.
“Let’s toss some dirt and let’s get some buildings done for the kids,” state Treasurer and Receiver General Deborah Goldberg barked at the crowd.
Goldberg, who chairs the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) Board of Directors, urged the assembled group of state and local public officials to keep their comments brief as ominous clouds overhead threatened to rain on the groundbreaking ceremony. But fortunately for the several hundred people who had gathered to celebrate on the playing fields at the northwest corner of the school parking lot, the crowd was able to enjoy the event before the clouds burst with drenching rains shortly after the ceremony ended.
Goldberg said the new school – which is expected to open in the fall of 2020 – is “a long time coming.”
“I know what it takes to make our kids succeed,” Goldberg said, and “I look forward to coming back for the ribbon-cutting.”
Goldberg was one of several state officials who joined the local crowd that turned out early Tuesday afternoon.
A dozen red-painted shovels were stuck upright in the ceremonial sandbox with red helmets resting on their handles. While the threat of rain loomed over the event, red canopies were set up to protect the crowd from the heat and the potential rain showers.
Several waves of shovelers took turns digging up the sand and tossing it in the sandbox while enthusiastic citizens snapped photos with their cellphones.
“A new chapter in Saugus”
“Good government is being able to compromise and work together and speak in one voice,” Town Manager Scott C. Crabtree said his introductory speech.
Crabtree, who was joined at the sandbox with his three children, hailed the new school as “a new chapter in Saugus and a new direction we’re headed in.”
“This has been an enormous community effort to redefine Saugus. … Saugus is speaking in one voice in the Middle-High School project and districtwide solution,” he said, making reference to the overwhelming “historic” vote by Saugus residents last year.
More than 70 percent of the nearly 5,000 voters who went to the polls favored a new $160.7 million Middle-High School to be built on the grounds of the current high school. Voters also approved overwhelmingly a second ballot question that supported $25.4 million for a District-Wide Master Plan Solution that includes the renovations and improvements at the Belmonte Middle School (which will be grades 3-5) and Veterans Memorial School (pre-k to grade 2).
Board of Selectmen Chair Debra Panetta hailed last year’s debt exclusion votes as a sign that voters “wanted better for the next generation and generations to come.” Panetta called it “the largest investment ever made in Saugus.
She praised the support of the parent teacher organizations: “You can’t get things done without the PTO’s – moms and dads. It truly did take a village to have this come to fruition,” Panetta said.
During his speech, Crabtree turned to Saugus Public Schools Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi, Jr. and encouraged him to build on the opportunity to improve the Saugus Public Schools. “We’re expecting and counting on you and the School Committee to take us to a new level,” the town manager said.
Following the town’s 71% approval vote last year, MSBA awarded the Town a grant of up to $63.8 million to build the school, which will change the way education is delivered and help the school district achieve its goal to become a top-rated, Level 1 school district in Massachusetts, according to Crabtree.
“A great team”
Jack McCarthy, MSBA executive director, congratulated Saugus school and town officials “for picking such a great team.” “You put together a great group of consultants. I know it’s going to be on budget and on time,” he said.
McCarthy was referring to PMA Consultants – the owner’s project manager – and HMFH Architects, the firm designing the project.
When complete, the new Middle-High School complex will total 270,000 total square feet, including a 12,000-square-foot gymnasium and capacity for 1,360 students in grades 6-12. It will house state-of-the-art science labs and technology classrooms, fine and performing arts classrooms and a 750-seat auditorium. In addition, plans include a new sports complex and outdoor track, walking paths, outdoor classrooms and student gardens.
This district-wide master plan solution also calls for renovations to Belmonte Middle School and Veterans Memorial Elementary School. Following renovations, Belmonte will be established as an Upper Elementary School for grades 3-5, and Veterans will become a Lower Elementary School for pre-K to grade 2.