Survey: 93% favor investing in new 7-12 school

The survey received 840 responses from residents across all three towns.

The survey received 840 responses from residents across all three towns.

By We Are Pentucket Communications Team

A survey of residents from Merrimac, Groveland and West Newbury has found that almost 93 percent of respondents prefer building a brand-new school for grades 7-12 over repairing the high school.

The five-day survey received 840 responses from residents across all three towns. It was posted on all three towns’ websites and social media pages, as well as distributed by the Pentucket Regional School District. We Are Pentucket also posted the survey on its website, which was shared on Facebook groups in all three towns.

The survey was created last week after the Massachusetts State Building Authority (MSBA) notified district officials that it would apply an estimated 40 percent reimbursement to a “repair only” option. Previously, the MSBA had maintained that it would not reimburse the district for the cost of repairing a school building.

In light of this development, the school district decided to notify residents of this policy change and ask whether it should change the unanimous decision made in July by the School Committee and Building Committee to advance plans to construct a brand-new school.

According to the survey results, the response was a resounding “no.”

This building is on life support.
— Bill O'Neil, Chair of Groveland Board of Selectmen

At its Sept. 25 meeting, School Committee and Building Committee once again voted unanimously to proceed with plans for the new school. During discussion, several members reiterated their opinion that spending any money on repairs to a 1950s-era building made little financial or practical sense.

“This building is on life support,” said Building Committee member Bill O’Neil, who is also chair of the Board of Selectmen in Groveland. “The humane thing to do, if this were a human being, would be to let it go in peace. We have educational hospice going on.”

In May 2019, residents across all three towns will vote whether or not to approve funding for the school building project. Right now, district officials are estimating project costs at $95.2 million, a figure that takes into account a conservatively-estimated 40 percent state reimbursement from the MSBA. Project costs will be refined in early 2019 after the design phase.

  • A 'YES' VOTE will mean you agree to take advantage of an opportunity for the state to foot at least 40 percent of the bill to build a brand-new, energy-efficient, state-of-the-art school and enjoy a boost in property values.

  • A 'NO' VOTE will mean you would rather pass on the state reimbursement and wait for the schools to inevitably fail. MSBA money would go to another district, and Pentucket would need to start at the beginning of the 4-year process to try again. If the schools fail during that time, the district will likely lose accreditation and the towns will be required to pay full price to replace them on their own. The 1950s-era school buildings have exceeded their life expectancy and are at risk of condemnation within 10 years, according to assessments by independent experts who are not posed to benefit financially from the school building project.

Nancy Stewart