Progress toward building a new middle school in Beverly is expected to take a significant step forward next week when the project goes before a state board for a vote.
Mayor Bill Scanlon said Thursday that the Massachusetts School Building Authority will vote Wednesday on the city’s so-called State of Interest to construct a new school on the Memorial building property on Cabot Street.
“If this is a positive vote, as we expect it to be, it moves the train forward exorbitantly,” Scanlon said.
The 38-page statement of interest was submitted in March, Scanlon said, and during a visit to the existing Briscoe Middle School last week it was praised for being “very thorough,” Scanlon said.
The statement of interest lists eight criteria for a new school and Beverly has cited No. 2, overcrowding, and No. 7, obsolescence, as grounds for state funding.
The MSBA is expected to set the minimum amount of reimbursement for the project from state government, although city leaders will have a chance to increase that number as a project is designed.
“We will do whatever we can to get (the reimbursement level) higher,” Scanlon said.
The city received 58.42 percent reimbursement for the Beverly High School project, and Scanlon said Thursday that it "would certainly be a number north of 50 percent."
It is too early to estimate the total cost of a project, but in the city’s latest capital expenditure plan the school’s cost is estimated at $73 million with $33 million paid by the city and $40 million coming from the state government.
After a vote by the MSBA, Scanlon said engineers and architects will undertake a feasibility study to determine whether the existing Memorial building, which served as the city’s second middle school until the mid-2000s, should be renovated or razed and a new school built.
Scanlon expects to go in front of the City Council before Thanksgiving to ask the City Council to OK the city's share of the feasibility study cost, which would be split with the state at the same percentage as the building project as a whole. The study would likely take about nine months to complete.
The school is also expected to include grades 5-8 in two “houses.” The move would take fifth graders out of the five elementary school and put it into a new middle school, a transition that Decker said is “educationally based” and was the consensus of the facilities subcommittee during the strategic planning process.
Construction of a new middle school could also touch off a building shuffle, which would likely create an early childhood center for all of the city’s pre-K classes at the McKeown School, according to Decker. Four classes are at
City officials would have to find a new home for the building department and police detectives, which are currently housed in the Memorial building.
A new middle school on the Memorial property – which is 17 acres versus Briscoe’s 6 acres – would mean the Briscoe building would be sold, Scanlon said.