TAUNTON – Newly authorized by a Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) expect to cover 40% of the cost, the Bristol-Plymouth Regional Technical School offered to build an almost entirely new campus worth $ 305 million.
The district says the current campus is outdated, undersized for the number of students it currently has, and does not meet the educational needs of its students.
The new campus would include code-related upgrades, create more intuitive and larger learning spaces, ensure that every classroom has natural light, and include an auditorium – something the school does not have. not currently.
According to a summary of the school district project, the current campus opened in 1972 and is “beyond its useful life.”
Obsolete and overcrowded
Bristol-Plymouth Superintendent Alexandre Magalhaes said a lot has changed for the school since the 1970s.
At the time, he said, the school was more focused on vocational training. From now on, the school should also provide first-rate general education and prepare students for university.
Second, since the school opened, they have added new professional programs such as cosmetology and plumbing. They also expanded their child care program from a half-year program to a full-year program.
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The project summary says the campus needs a lot of repairs, including new HVAC systems, a new roof, new windows, steel upgrades, ADA upgrades, and plumbing repairs to bring it up to standard.
In addition, he says, the school is “severely overcrowded”, lacks modern facilities, does not have enough science laboratories and special education classrooms, has windowless classrooms and shops. vocational training programs that are too small to support the school’s current staff.
Magalhaes said the school was built to accommodate 700 students. He now signs up to 1,300 and expects his number of registrations to continue to grow.
According to the summary, many BP spaces are over 20% smaller than the MSBA standards for all high schools, including the cafeteria, gymnasium, and library.
Additionally, many BP professional labs are more than 20% smaller than Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education standards.
Here are the 3 possibilities
As required by the MSBA, BP conducted a feasibility study of various options to improve the school, including bringing the school into compliance, adding an addition to the school and renovating the school. whole school.
Ultimately, the study found that it would cost roughly the same amount of money to add an expansion to the school and make repairs as it did to just build a whole new campus, which was considered as a less desirable option.
The study also found that simply repairing the school base would cost about half as much as the other two options, around $ 140 million, but that it would not improve the quality of education in any way. school.
For this reason, the district proposes to build an almost entirely new campus with the aim of upgrading the school and providing a better quality of education to its students.
“Even if you renovate what we have, it would still be a challenge to meet the educational needs of the programs we have,” said Magalhaes.
The vision of the new campus
The vision for the new campus includes a new ‘school center’ centered around the library, ‘vocational training groups’ where different programs are located alongside others that fall within the same industry, larger vocational training stores and special education classrooms, natural light in all classrooms. , a new multi-purpose auditorium and a larger gymnasium.
Magalhaes said the new campus would also have a more intuitive design, placing career training stores with garages at the rear of the campus with easy access for vehicles and programs that draw customers to the community, such as culinary and cosmetology programs at the front of the campus to be more open to the public.
An eight-year project
Construction of the new campus would take around eight years and force parts of the school to close one at a time, but overall this should not disrupt student education, Magalhaes said.
Impact on taxpayers
The district is in the process of submitting its plan for the new campus to the MSBA for approval, but ultimately communities in the district will vote on whether or not to approve the construction of the new campus.
The new school would have a significant impact on district taxpayers. Families in Rehoboth would pay the least, paying $ 110 more per year, while families in Berkley would pay the most, paying $ 285 more per year.
Located in Taunton, BP serves Taunton, Bridgewater, Dighton, Middleboro, Raynham and Rehoboth, in addition to Berkley.
Here is the estimated annual tax impact on the average single-family home in BP member communities, according to BP’s website:
Berkley $ 285
Dighton $ 241
Middleboro $ 178
Raynham $ 217
Taunton $ 193
But Magalhaes was clear the district wouldn’t come up with a new campus without the MSBA grant, which would have to pay 40% of the cost. He also said that if the school is not improved now, it could cost taxpayers more in the future when there are more repairs to be done and the school may not have the grant.
Magalhaes also said the district is doing everything it can to ease costs for taxpayers, including lobbying state lawmakers to get money and to change the rules on how the district can borrow from. money.
BP advocates for $ 305 million project
Magalhaes said the school is of great value to the surrounding communities. Not only do its students provide services to residents, such as cosmetology, a working restaurant, and childcare services, the school also trains a skilled workforce for high-demand jobs in the area. .
“It will be your future nurses, your future police officers, your future plumbers, who will probably serve the citizens of this neighborhood,” he said.
He added that unlike students who grow up in the area and may go to college in another state and stay there, Bristol-Plymouth students often stay in the area and set up their own businesses, which benefits the university. local economy.
While Magalhaes has admitted that the project will likely exceed $ 305 million, he believes it will dramatically improve the quality of education in Bristol-Plymouth and in turn have a high return on investment for district taxpayers. .
Enterprise Staff Writer Susannah Sudborough can be contacted by email at [email protected]. You can follow her on Twitter at @k_sudborough. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Enterprise today.