NEWBURYPORT — For the third year in a row, the district will submit an expression of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority for a new roof and upgrades to the science labs at Newburyport High School.
The school committee voted unanimously to approve the Expression of Interest submission on Monday evening.
The district applied to the School Building Authority Foundation Program for the past two years, but was not accepted.
Superintendent Sean Gallagher said the district only found out a few weeks ago that he had not been accepted into the core program after last year’s submission.
He added that School Building Authority officials have provided the district with many positive feedback on its current high school programs and job proposal.
The superintendent said there were likely school districts that needed a bit more, so Newburyport didn’t make the cut.
If accepted, the district could receive a reimbursement of approximately 50% from the state.
Preliminary project costs are estimated at approximately $15 million.
As stated in the Expression of Interest, the school is in need of a new roof which ideally would protect the building from leaks for the next 25-30 years.
District officials hope the roof will help save on energy costs and that this work will “in turn free up the manpower and financial resources that are currently being used for roof-related issues, to be allocated to other areas.” other issues throughout the facility,” the Expression of Interest reads.
Science labs are also considered outdated because they do not meet the state’s new science standards or the “district’s vision for exemplary STEM education and innovative learning experiences,” the statement said.
Due to the impact of space limitations, district officials note that in many ways lower-grade science, technology, engineering, and math classrooms could be considered more advanced than what the high school currently offers.
With this project, officials are proposing to build a two-story addition above the gymnasium and renovate the classrooms and science labs.
Mayor Sean Reardon asked Newburyport High School Principal Andrew Wulf to further discuss what these new science labs would mean for the district.
Wulf explained that the school has a limited number of science labs, so teachers need to set aside space to conduct hands-on experiments in conjunction with their lesson plans.
“It makes such a big difference in what a teacher is able to do and how they engage students in learning, especially when it comes to the scientific process,” the principal said.
The filing of the declaration of interest does not commit the City to any of the work. It simply allows the district to apply for the program and begin the review process.
Facilities manager Steve Bergholm noted that if accepted into the program, construction would still take about three or four years.
“It’s going to take a lot of logistics, a lot of planning,” he said.
Bergholm added that the process would involve a feasibility study to examine all possible options for the job, so the current proposal is subject to change if district officials and the School Building Authority identify a better way to meet the needs.