By: School Building Committee Chair Theodore Nickole, School Committee Chair Deborah Davis, and School Committee Vice Chair Judith Dyment
In January 2022, voters in the 12 communities served by Northeast Metro Tech voted overwhelmingly, with 82.6% in favor, to authorize construction of a new, modern facility that will allow our school to take our extremely strong career and technical education programs to the next level and to increase the amount of students we can accept from 1,280 to 1,600 students when the new building opens.
The $317 million project has received significant funding support from the MSBA in the form of a $141 million grant, lowering the project cost nearly in half.
This has been a long, deliberative and inclusive process that began over four years ago. The construction site in Wakefield was deemed by that process to be the only feasible site for the new building, and after significant public input, feedback, community meetings and the final support of our residents at the ballot, more than $11 million has already been spent on site work for the new school, which broke ground late last year.
After years of public input and a transparent, state-supported process, a small group of residents opposed to the project have taken to typical “not in my backyard” tactics and grandstanding in a last ditch effort to thwart the will of the voters and in an attempt to strip the $141 million in state funding from the hands of our students.
To push their NIMBY agenda, this group has posted egregious falsehoods and misrepresentations about the project and have resorted to a little known tactic called Reverse Greenwashing. This small group has used environmental activists and well-known environmental rally cries to make false, misleading and deceptive claims about the Northeast Metro Tech construction project.
Like virtually all construction projects, the new NEMT building project will require site work and the removal of trees from the new building site. The School District and project team anticipated this in the years of lead-up to the project, as any construction project anywhere would require similar work. We have proactively taken measures to preserve woodlands on the project site to the maximum extent possible. The overall footprint of the school was reduced during planning, and an additional floor was added in order to provide more circulation around the building for safety which resulted in the removal of fewer trees and requiring less blasting of ledge.
The project team has also worked closely with the Wakefield Conservation Commission for alignment of the driveway and to reduce the width to minimize the impacts to both trees and wetlands. Also, an accessible ramp that traverses from the athletic campus/lower parking lot to the school building/upper parking lot has been included in the project reducing the tree removal and blasting scope of work.
The District also plans to plant new trees around the new school grounds to reverse our overall carbon footprint.
Northeast Metro Tech is a responsible steward of our environment and of the communities and people we serve. The District has partnered with the MSBA to gain site and funding approval utilizing the same process that every other school seeking MSBA funding must follow. This process was public, and we have conducted and attended over 100 meetings, presentations, and hearings and have participated in board and commission meetings in all 12 cities and towns.
We ask that you review the process as a whole and not be taken in by false claims by a small group trying to derail the biggest educational project in our region in a half century because they don’t want it in their neighborhood, and are willing to press false claims about environmental impact to push their agenda.
The location, chosen after years of deliberative labor, is final for all intents and purposes. The MSBA simply would not allow the District to reject years’ worth of planning, design and validation for sites we already deemed substandard and that may have even more expensive and challenging environmental requirements. The alternative sites did not undergo the detailed analysis that the approved location did and certainly would have included much more blasting, environmental impacts to not only non-jurisdictional wetlands but also streams, rivers and wetlands.
The site for the new NEMT building was selected as part of the MSBA’s Preferred Schematic Report (PSR) process and submitted to the MSBA on December 23, 2020. Following this submission, and the approval from the MSBA Board of Directors in February 2021, the project continued into the Schematic Design Phase which led to a District wide vote on January 25, 2022 to approve the Project Scope and Budget.
The proposed layout, adjacencies and building configuration achieved the District’s educational goals and vision and was supported by an overwhelming supermajority of voters.
The location of the new school also allows for construction to occur with the least amount of disruption to the existing school and allows for additional athletic fields.
Additionally, the proposed driveway has undergone extensive review by the Wakefield Conservation Commission and their third-party experts in cooperation with project designers and engineers. The driveway has been deemed a necessity by Wakefield representatives and will provide much needed relief on the current traffic flow issues at the bottom of Hemlock Road and the existing Wakefield High School. It has also been remarked in public meetings by Wakefield officials that the relief in which the NEMT project is seeking through the Conservation Commission is not uncommon and has been approved on other Town projects.
The continued misinformation and claims by project opponents has the potential to be quite damaging to all 12 cities and towns in the NEMT district. Our shop areas no longer meet state standards. Our building does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, denying some students equal access to a technical education. Starting over means continuing to provide less than our best for students. It means starting over, and accepting a much more expensive future price tag. And it means gambling that the state will approve, or help pay for, another project.
NEMT’s student population is one of the most diverse throughout the state. Any delay in this project will deprive generations of students from 12 communities the ability to seek an alternative to unaffordable college loans and deny many of them the opportunity to become leaders in their career fields. The District and project team are supporting this plan as it is the one and only feasible project, which will undoubtedly provide education and opportunities for generations of students to come.
We urge our residents to call or write to their elected and appointed leaders statewide and urge them to support the Northeast Metro Tech building project, which more than 82% of voters supported at the polls last year.
A message from the Northeast Metro Tech Building Committee