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Shawsheen Tech Seeks New Facility, Per the Apple. That May Mean a Vote In Tewksbury

At its Sept. 27 meeting, Shawsheen Tech School Committee member Brian O’Donnell, Chair of the Facilities and Capital Planning Subcommittee, announced that the Massachusetts School Building Authority will visit the Tech on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022 to tour the building in response to the school’s statement of interest to enter the state’s school construction grant program for a new or renovated high school, reported the Wilmington Apple. Read more highlights of that meeting and find the link to it on YouTube at the Apple.

The MSBA authorized reimbursement of up to $31,190,956 for the new Tewksbury Center Elementary School, which will replace the North St. and Trahan and serve grades 2, 3 and 4.

In its application to the MSBA, available below, the School Committee wrote as justification that “Shawsheen Tech continues to attract an increased number of applicants from our member communities (Bedford, Billerica, Burlington, Tewksbury and Wilmington) in spite of those districts’ flat or declining total student enrollment numbers. Career and Vocational Technical Education (CVTE) continues to rise in popularity in our five member communities and across the Commonwealth. However, our current facility is grossly overcrowded with 1,300+ students, meaning Shawsheen is unable to meet the CURRENT demand for CVTE programming from our member communities, let alone expected increased future demand.”

As of February, Shawsheen had received almost 500 applications for admission to the Class of 2026, but due to size and capacity restrictions, could offer admission to only 340 students. About 35% of Shawsheen’s students qualify for special education services.

The Committee also highlighted problems with security at the school and the fact that space constraints prevent it from offering new programs in health care, STEM and other in-demand areas. The 265,100 s.f. school sits on 90 acres in Billerica.

Currently, Northeast Metro Tech is constructing a new facility. It was approved by the MSBA in 2017 to be reimbursed for a significant percentage of the total project costs. The remaining costs will be paid by the 12 cities and towns in the Northeast school district over a 30 year period.

In January, those districts voted to authorize that expenditure, which is divided among communities based on the prior year October 1 enrollment. Its estimated total project cost is $317,422,620, with a maximum MSBA grant of $140,851,919. Northeast serves 1,600 students compared with about 1,300 at Shawsheen.

Tewksbury’s FY23 budget approved at May Town Meeting included a budget allocation for the anticipated cost of Shawsheen’s portion of a feasibility study, should the MSBA decide to invite Shawsheen Tech into the next phase of project development. Any vote in Bedford, Billerica, Burlington, Tewksbury and Wilmington to authorize a new high school at the Shawsheen Tech location is likely years away, and is dependent on the MSBA authorizing the project.

Lorna is a U.S. Army veteran and 25-year resident of Tewksbury who has written for organizations ranging from the DIA to InformationWeek to a free weekly in New London that sent her to interview the pastry chef at Foxwoods.

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