Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria appeared at the City Council meeting Monday to address the issue of the future use of the former Pope John XXIII High School property located at 880 Broadway.
DeMaria began his appearance with a prepared statement and then answered questions directly from city councilors. DeMaria made it clear that he would like to see housing opportunities for veterans and seniors at the 880 Broadway site. Many in the community have expressed their opinion that the former Pope John XXIII High School should be used as a school to help alleviate the overcrowding in the district.
DeMaria said his solution to the overcrowding in local schools would be the addition of modular spaces at each of the schools where there is overcrowding. He said the modulars would not be the traditional “trailers” that many associate with modulars, but fully functional classrooms that would be attached to the existing buildings on the individual school properties “in September if we worked on it right now.”
DeMaria also indicated that he would like to a see a new high school “with vocational programs” built in the Rivergreen area of Everett. After speaking with numerous Everett students, DeMaria said he has become a big proponent of providing vocational education programs.
“I’m going to stick with building CTE (Career and Technical Education),” DeMaria told the Council. “We can’t afford to do it all. We can’t afford to spend $100 million on Pope John.”
Supt. of Schools Priya Tahiliani, who sat at the same table as DeMaria during his remarks, has advocated for the use of the former Pope John XXIII High School to help alleviate the overcrowding in the local schools. The School Committee also supports using the Pope John property for that use.
As some councilors strayed from the topic of the 880 Broadway property, Council President John Hanlon tried to limit the discussion to the property.
Councilor Richard Dell Isola cut right to the prevailing topic, stating, “What we have here is, it looks like you [Mayor DeMaria] made a decision, people agree or don’t agree – Pope John is not going to happen for a school. We have to decide on what the next step is going to be here for the students. Let’s talk about what the next step is going to be.”
“We hope to work with the superintendent, and we’ll send you a plan on what buildings we’re going to add modulars to, because we won’t be renovating Pope John, and we won’t be looking at RFPs renovating the old high school because it’s not going to happen, it’s going to be way too costly,” said DeMaria.
DeMaria added that he was hopeful that the MSBA would grant approval for a new Everett High School within the next two or three years.
Dell Isola then asked Supt. Tahiliani which schools would need modular classrooms.
“We have five schools that would need them,” replied Tahiliani. “I’m not sure what a cost would be for the [classrooms] that connect, but if we’re saying $6-7 million for five schools, I think that money is better spent on renovating a current school building that you have.”
To her credit, the superintendent was able to cite the exact number of students in “overcapacity” situations at the five schools: Parlin (256), Keverian (221), Lafayette (165), Whittier (75), and Everett High School (500).
Councilor Stephanie Smith concluded the discussion of the property. “As the mayor stated, there will be no RFP. This piece was about an RFP, and we’ll refer it back to sponsor with the hopes that the City Administration and the School Department works together for a new plan for us to vote on,” said Smith.