Superintendent of Everett Public Schools Priya Tahiliani appeared before the City Council on Monday night to explain the rental status of the Devens School. The current owner of the former Everett school building notified school officials that he might be looking at selling the building when the lease expires in June 2023, and is seeking to talk to city officials about the possible sale or even renewing the lease.
The city has been renting the Devens School for approximately the last 10 years . The yearly cost of the rental is $580,000 per year. The Devens School was originally owned by the City of Everett, but the council approved the sale about a decade ago.
The Devens School presently is being used as a school for students with Individualized Educational Plans (IEP) who cannot be in a typical classroom setting because of their learning issues and specific needs.
Dr. Brian Wallace, the principal at the Devens School, also appeared before the councillors and provided a quick overview of the school’s programs.
“We need school space,” Wallace said to the councilors, while mentioning how important the smaller classroom-size is to the learning process and future success for a child on an IEP.
In 2012, the Everett school decided to lease back the Devens School in order to save the taxpayers the added expense of transporting these students to programs in other communities.
He noted how important continuity is for these students and that any change can be detrimental to their educational progress. He also told the councillors that according to studies, these students do best in schools that are located within their own community. Many students in other communities which do not provide adequate special needs education programs are forced to take long bus rides, at great expense to their school districts, in order to receive the educational programs they require.
Tahiliani added, “We need this building to stop additional overcrowding.”
The issue of new schools for Everett’s burgeoning school population became a major focus for city officials and residents when the School Committee brought to the public’s attention earlier this year the extent of the serious overcrowding problem facing the school system. School officials outlined their plans to convert present storage space into classroom space or to add modular classrooms at the Keverian School in order to ease the present overcrowding situation.
Wallace emphasized to the council that the Devens School exists, “because local schools cannot handle the need.”
The councilors voted to refer the matter to the mayor’s office to meet with the owner of the Devens School and then get back to the council with information about the possibility of a new lease or purchase.