The state has come up with its chunk of funding for the new Clark Avenue School after a vote Wednesday morning, Sept. 24, in Boston, but now the more critical work of coming up with some $20 million in local costs will begin.
State Treasurer Steven Grossman, Chairman of the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), and MSBA Executive Director Jack McCarthy announced Wednesday that the MSBA Board of Directors voted to approve a grant of up to $37.6 million to replace the existing Clark Avenue Middle School in Chelsea with a new facility serving grades 5 through 8 on the existing site. One of the next steps is for the District and the MSBA to enter into a Project Funding Agreement, which will detail the project’s scope and budget, along with the conditions under which the City will receive its MSBA grant.
“This is a down payment on the academic excellence of Chelsea students,” said Treasurer Grossman. “Upon completion, this new school will provide a modern learning environment and create the space needed to deliver on the school district’s educational commitments and goals.”
Chelsea Supt. Mary Bourque said it represents an important step on the path to a new school.
“We are excited to be one step closer to making a new middle school a reality,” said Supt. Mary Bourque. “We thank our state and city leaders for their support and we are grateful to MSBA for their vote of confidence in the project. We look forward to engaging stakeholders in the next steps in the process. The future is bright for the Clark Avenue School.”
The grant represents some 80 percent funding for the construction costs of the project. However, there are numerous non-reimbursable costs associated with the project that only became apparent earlier this year and at a time when the City and schools had already gone too far down the path to scrap the entire idea.
At the same time, the need for the school is so critical that scrapping the idea was probably not feasible anyhow. Now, City Manager Jay Ash indicates that there is going to be a fair amount of sacrifice necessary to fully fund the school with state and local contributions.
“The Clark Ave School Project is a massive undertaking that would not be possible without our state leaders, including our legislative delegation, being champions of Chelsea and public education in general,” said Ash. “This approval provides much needed financial support, although what we still need to spend on the project, approximately $20 million, will mean finalized sacrifices elsewhere. Those sacrifices couldn’t be for a better reason though, that continuing to assist us in having a great school infrastructure to provide our kids and their instructors with the best environment possible to teach and learn.”
The new school will be built based on a design enrollment of 670 students in grades 5 through 8. The current Clark Avenue Middle School was built in 1926 as the Chelsea High School and suffers from deficiencies in major building systems including mechanical, plumbing, electrical and building envelope.
“The proposed new school in Chelsea will replace an aging school with an up-to-date, 21st century learning facility,” said MSBA Executive Director McCarthy. “Students will soon have a beautiful new space which will undoubtedly enhance and improve their ability to excel in the classroom.”
The MSBA partners with Massachusetts communities to support the design and construction of educationally appropriate, flexible, sustainable and cost-effective public school facilities. Since its 2004 inception, the Authority has made over 1,400 site visits to more than 250 school districts as part of its due diligence process.
Ash and Council President Matt Frank will continue the local discussion at a special City Council Committee that is being led by Councillors Brian Hatleberg and Chris Cataldo.