Town residents will get to vote Tuesday on whether to support a proposed new Northeast Metro Tech
Saugus registered voters in all 10 town precincts will go to one polling location Tuesday in a special election that will determine whether plans for a proposed new $317-million Northeast Metro Tech School proceed.
The voting will take place at the Saugus Senior Center at 466 Central St. from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., instead of being held at the usual polling locations.
Saugus, along with the 11 other communities that make up the Northeast Metro Regional Vocational School District, will vote simultaneously on a “Yes” of “No” question to authorize the borrowing of $317,422,620 to pay costs of designing, constructing, originally equipping a new Northeast Metropolitan Regional Vocational School and related athletic facilities, located at 100 Hemlock Road in Wakefield – site of the current school.
A simple majority vote will decide if the project continues. In that case, the town would have to hold another special election to decide on how to finance the project, which has been estimated to cost up to $40-million over a 30-year period.
Various estimates have been made on what the impact would be for the average Saugus homeowner.
“According to figures provided by the Saugus HSMS Building Committee and the Northeast Building Committee, the potential tax impact, should a debt exclusion pass, would be less than $150 annually (at peak) for the average assessed single family home value in Saugus, vs $720 annually (at peak) for the new HSMS,” Precinct 2 Town Meeting Member Chris Riley said this week (Please see Letter-to-the-Editor in this week’s edition).
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. The remaining cost will be assessed on a per pupil basis to district member communities through the issuance of a 30-year construction bond, with the largest impact beginning in Fiscal Year 2026 – three years from now during the height of construction.
The new school will feature 21st-century learning environments, improved Individualized Education Program (IEP) accommodations, state-of-the-art shop and technical lab 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 learning space, and a new cafeteria.
“Northeast Metropolitan Technical School’s goal is to ensure every student reaches their full potential and to find employment in well-paying, high-demand jobs upon graduation,” Superintendent David 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.”
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.
Northeast was built 53 years ago in 1968 and the facility has outlived its intended lifespan. Classrooms and shops are overcrowded, infrastructure systems are outdated, and the building does not comply with existing Americans with Disabilities Act regulations, according to school officials.
Northeast Metro Tech has not had any significant renovations, additions, or improvements since then. Students are facing several issues that are reducing the quality of the educational experience the school is able to provide. The school is at capacity and more than 300 students are waitlisted every year.
The existing NEMT School’s media center is used as conference space due to a lack of otherwise available space. The proposed new NEMT school design includes adequate conference spaces, allowing students to use the media center for its intended purpose.
The current building needs a complete replacement of its mechanical and electrical systems, along with a full code and regulations update.
School officials say enrollment will increase by approximately 320 students versus the current enrollment. This is a major benefit of the project, as the District currently rejects more freshman applications than they accept due to space limitations.
The construction of a new NEMT would allow for additional programs for Marketing, Medical Assisting, and Biotechnology, school officials say.