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Northeast Vocational School Moves Closer to New Building

Feb 07, 2019 06:35PM ● By Dan Marra

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WAKEFIELD – A number of communities are looking to receive state funds to build new schools in the coming years. After five years of trying, Stoneham has begun the process to build a new high school, while schools in Wakefield and Winchester will be looking to secure funding next year.

However, one school that is already moving forward with the hopes of constructing a new school building is the Northeast Vocational High School located in Wakefield. The school building, which is celebrating its 50th year of existence in 2019, serves students from 12 communities, including Winchester, Wakefield, Stoneham, Reading and Woburn.

According to the school's Superintendent, Dave DiBarri, the vocational school is expected to receive approval by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) by the end of March to begin a feasibility study. DiBarri said that when the study is completed in 2020, he expects the recommendation will be for the department to build a brand new building. And by 2021, the school’s administration will need to go in front of the 12 communities asking for their financial support to construct a new school.

Because it’s a vocational school, the state reimburse 72 percent of the project, while the remaining cost of the project will be divided among the 12 communities, spread out over 30 years. The communities can either decide to fund the building through existing operational funds or through an override. The cost for each community is also dependent on how many students attend Northeast from each community.

“There are imminent capital repair costs that need to be done if we don’t get a new school, and that is not reimbursed by the state,” DiBarri said. “In the end, paying for the repairs out of a town’s operational budget will cost communities more than a new school, which will last for another 50 years.”

Currently there are 1,231 students at the school with the most coming from Chelsea (261), followed by Revere (253). Woburn (101), Wakefield (75), Stoneham (64), Reading (21) and Winchester (5), all send students to the vocational school.

According to DiBarri, one of the goals of the new building will be to increase space. For the last 15 years there has been a waiting list for new students. On average, the school receives 750 applications a year for 315 spots.

If the decision is made by MSBA to build a brand new building, DiBarri said it will be constructed somewhere on the property – either adjacent to the existing school or over one of the many sports fields located on the premises. Once completed, the old building would then be torn down.

A new building would enhance the student’s experience, by increasing the programs the school is able to offer, according to DiBarri.

“A new school would give us an opportunity for new and exciting programs,” DiBarri said.

DiBarri mentioned adding bio technical programs, along with medical assisting and marketing.

The one challenge is, when the time comes, all 12 communities need to agree to move forward with funding the project. But that’s something DiBarri is confident all the communities would support.

“We offer great quality to the region,” he said. We do really great things at this school and a new building will only enhance what we’re able to offer our students.”

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