Malden city councillors expressed backing, but voters will have final say among 12 district communities on Jan. 25
Two of its biggest sending communities took one-sided, formal votes in opposition to a commitment of tens of millions of dollars for a new Northeast Metro Tech high school facility in Wakefield. The Saugus Town Meeting and the Chelsea City Council were not swayed by presentations before them by representatives of Northeast Metro Tech seeking financial backing for a proposed $317.4 million facility, which would be built over about a two-year span alongside the existing, 50-year-old building. The strong opposition voiced by Saugus and Chelsea municipal leaders was the only formal stance taken over the fall period where Northeast representatives, including Northeast Superintendent David DiBarri, spent most of the month of October visiting the legislative bodies of the various sending districts.
That means that while two communities, through their elected officials, opposed the project – 10 did not.
When Supt. DiBarri and his consultant addressed the Malden City Council on October 12, a number of Councillors had plenty of questions regarding the project, which, if completed, would be one of the highest priced new schools in Massachusetts history. However, none of the Malden elected officials voiced opposition to the new school proposal. In fact, several were effusive in their comments regarding past history and dealings with Northeast Metro Tech and their support for the future.
The project includes the largest figure for state aid through the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) ever granted, a total of $140.8 million. That leaves $176.3 million, which would have to be funded by the 12 sending districts.
As now proposed, Malden’s contribution to that figure would be $36 million over 30 years, or about $1.2 million per annum. This would be over and above the $1.62 million Malden paid for sending its students to Northeast for this current school year.
According to the Northeast reps, the new school would 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.
Another key move would be the ability of the school to expand from its present 1,200 students to about 1,600 students in the future. If the project moves forward, the new school would be targeted to open at the end of 2025 with the overall project completed by the next summer.
A referendum vote by the voters in all 12 of the sending districts is set for Tuesday, January 25, in Malden, Chelsea, Melrose, North Reading, Reading, Revere, Saugus, Stoneham, Wakefield, Winchester, Winthrop and Woburn. Just a simple majority in the overall vote would mean approval of the plan and would mean communities would have to provide the funding for the new facility.
In Malden, at a recent City Council meeting, the members voted to designate the Senior Center at 7 Washington St. as the citywide polling location for the budget ballot question Special Election on January 25 with polls open from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.