Council Postpones Action on Roof Repairs for Old EHS Building

After hearing a presentation by Supt. of Schools Bill Hart on a plan to convert the old Everett High School into a school for Everett’s seventh and eighth graders, the City Council voted by a 7-4 margin against an order that would have  commited $10 million of the ARPA funds for the high school roof improvement project.

In essence, the Council postponed a vote on the plan until it could ascertain the total cost of renovating the 40 classrooms and other areas of the building so it could reopen as a seventh-and-eighth-grade academy. The estimated cost of that project, which would take between 12 and 18 months, is believed to be in the neighborhood of $50 million.

“The postponement is merely to hold off on the vote [on the roof repairs] until we get the financial details for the buildout of the former high school for the seventh and eighth academy,” said City Council President Robert Van Campen.

Van Campen and Councilors Gureline Alcy Jabouin, Holly Garcia, Michael Marchese, Stephanie Smith, Stephanie Martins, and Peter Pietrantonio voted against the order to allocate the funds.

Councillors John Hanlon, Anthony DiPierro, Wayne Matewsky and Katy Rogers were in favor of voting on the measure and moving forward immediately to address the overcrowdedness in the Everett schools.

Hart’s presentation was both thorough and masterful as he directly provided a well-thought-out solution for “the current and foreseeable space needs of the entire school district,” as had been requested in a resolution by Councilors Alcy Jabouin and Rogers.

Hart also cited enrollment numbers showing there is “overcrowded conditions” throughout the district.

Recalling the former Parlin Junior High School set-up from years ago, Hart told the Council, “I would like to return to that option and house seventh and eighth grade students in the same building [the old Everett High School] and focus on the best practices that we can provide those students.”

Hart expects that an academy at the old EHS building would be able to house the approximately 1,100 seventh and eighth grade students from throughout the entire city.

Hart said an academy would open more space in the five neighborhood schools where seventh and eighth grade students currently attend. Hart cited the example of some students in the district having to start their lunch break as early as 10:20 a.m.

“That is not ideal,” said Hart. “All these things impact their learning, and that’s obviously my concern,” said Hart. “My plan is simple. I need space. And with your help and with your support, I can provide a learning environment that will get these young people in the right place physically, emotionally, and of course, their ability to move further on.”

Hart took questions from the councilors about the plan.

Councillor Smith asked if the old EHS building would require more than $10 million to implement the plan.

Hart said that he will in fact need more than the $10 million (for the cost of the roof repairs) to complete the entire project of converting the building into a school for seventh and eighth graders.

Hart added that his plan would not affect the current occupants of the building including the pre-school program and the Eliot Family Resources Center.

Van Campen, who represents the neighborhood where the building is situated, told Hart, “I am concerned about adding a seventh-eight-grade academy on top of all the other uses in the building.”

Van Campen also brought up the topic of using the old Pope John XXIII High School for additional academic space. In the ensuing portion of the meeting, Mayor’s Chief of Staff Erin Deveney explained that the Administration would ultimately like to create affordable housing units, housing for veterans, and housing for seniors at the Pope John site.

Councillor DiPierro implored his colleagues to take up the matter right away. “This has been debated for two years,” said DiPierro. “We need to end the gridlock. We need to make a decision for our children. There is a decision in front of us and we need to take a path forward. Our community has needs for more classroom space. It has needs for veteran and senior housing. It has needs for a new high school. This is what we have to do for our residents, for our children, for their future. Something needs to be done.”

Van Campen is hoping that the Council can receive a report on the buildout from Mayor Carlo DeMaria detailing the exact amount of funds required to convert the old Everett High School building into an academy for all of Everett’s seventh and eighth grade students.

Van Campen said that upon receipt of that report from the Mayor, the Council would vote on the matter at its next meeting on July 22.

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