Supt. Priya Tahiliani and the School Committee agreed on Monday night to start the long process of trying to build a new high school in the Rivergreen area, hoping to potentially transform Everett High into a middle school and relieve the overcrowding that exists now at every school building in the district.
Tahiliani requested and received permission to file a Statement of Interest with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) to pursue review and financing for a new high school building – tentatively planned for the area in and around RiverGreen Park.
Tahiliani said they would pursue a high school as they can only focus on one school at a time, and the high school is already overcrowded. She said it was built for 1,800 students and is now at 2,057 students – more than 250 over the built capacity.
“On behalf of the School Department, I am seeking permission to submit a State of Interest to the MSBA to build a new school,” she said. “As many of you know we are overcrowded in many of our schools. Based on our current enrollment projections, we are seeking permission to build a new school…By building a new school, we hope to alleviate overcrowding in our high school and our K-8 schools and our K-5 school…This is just the first step in a multi-year, multi-step process.”
The MSBA process is long, and a successful project from Statement of Interest to opening can take as many as five to seven years in most cases.”
Mayor Carlo DeMaria said the work on a new high school began some time ago, around 2018, on submitting the Statement of Interest for the high school. Picking it up now is something he said he supports.
“The Administration fully supports the Statement of Interest and it is something we have been working on prior to the superintendent becoming superintendent. My hope is to realize this building could be the future home of a middle school and we can get back to that concept. I would look to build a new high school, and the area we would probably target is the GE Parkland down in the waterfront where the tennis courts are. I hope the School Committee can rally together and work with our parents and families to focus on the this waterfront area.”
The Mayor said the waterfront area along the Malden River could eventually serve as the location of a high school, and also where the Veterans Stadium could be located in the future. He said he would hope the entire area could serve as a sports complex with good locker rooms, Crew docks and Stadium.
“I know it’s expensive, but we could look at vocational programming there,” he added. “I think this is a great step to move into and I fully support it.”
School Committeewoman Samantha Lambert wondered why the high school was only identified, even when other schools are also overcrowded. Tahiliani said the process only allows for focusing on one school at a time, and they felt that building a high school could slow down the issues across he district.
“In order to enter into the MSBA process, you can only identify one school,” she said. “You can’t identify the entire school district as being overcrowded. We are focusing on Everett High School as the example of our being overcrowded. If we are to create a new building, we believe it could not only alleviate our issues at Everett High, but also it would help other schools as well.”
She said the preliminary plan would be to turn the existing Everett High into a 6-8 middle school, or a 7-9 pre-high school, all of which would feed into the new Everett High. Any new middle school would also have the ability to expose students to the vocational programs that exist at the high school – getting them potentially on a track for that program even before they hit high school.
“I think it’s a good idea we do include the vocational programs if we build a new school because there are a lot of kids that don’t have the ability to go to college,” said School Committeewoman Cynthia Sarnie. “If they had a trade behind them, that would be good because we’re seeing a shortage in those trades today.”
The approval moved the matter officially to City Hall, which would have to approve the Statement of Interest before it goes to MSBA. If MSBA approves the Statement of Interest, it enters the district into a pipeline that includes thorough reviews, and potentially, millions of dollars in state funding to build the school.