Whittier Tech Building Committee Approves Proposal to Build New School for $422.3 million

Sunday March 19, 2023

HAVERHILL – The Whitter Tech Building Committee is pleased to share that members have voted unanimously to pursue construction of a new school building to best deliver a 21st century technical education to students.
Whittier Tech opened in 1973, and its last significant renovation was a roof replacement in 2007. During the past 50 years, Whittier has worked diligently to maintain and adapt the building to changing needs. However, the building is not best-equipped to support new technology and the demands of the 21st-century workforce.
Whittier first approached the Massachusetts School Building Authority in 2016 about this project. MSBA partners with school districts and communities to support the design and construction of educationally appropriate, flexible, sustainable, and cost-effective public school facilities. MSBA authorized a feasibility study for Whittier in 2021.
The Building Committee has been meeting since January 2022 to consider all building options, including code upgrades, renovation and addition, and new construction. By state law the Building Committee must include members of school’s administration and community members with extensive knowledge of education, engineering, construction, and municipal financing. Committee members also represent project partners LeftField Project Management and JCJ Architecture.
The Committee hosted a community meeting on Thursday, Feb. 16, to present four options. About 130 people attended in-person or online.
Alicia Caritano, Senior Associate with JCJ Architecture, outlined deficiencies in the current building: Lack of sprinklers; accessibility issues; lack of lighting or natural lighting in some areas; no loading access for shops; and shortage of classroom space.
During the forum, audience members stressed that Whittier offers a tremendous opportunity for students to be career-ready upon graduation. The school hosts 1,200 students and prepares them for careers in 23 pathways in fields of Arts and Communication, Construction, Manufacturing, Service, Technology, and Transportation.
Speakers also suggested the District lean toward new construction, which could allow for increased enrollment in future years.
At a follow-up Building Committee meeting on Friday, Feb. 17, Superintendent Lynch described feedback from a post-presentation survey as “overwhelmingly positive for a new building.”
Based on that feedback, Building Committee members voted to move forward with a concept plan for a new Whittier Tech. The selected option scored highest in a qualitative analysis of District needs by LeftField Project Management and JCJ Architecture.
The three-story, W-shaped building option would contain almost all vocational, specialty, support, and community programs on the first two floors, and academic classes on the third floor. The campus would be reimagined with athletic fields, tennis and basketball courts, and baseball/softball fields. The current stadium will remain.
This option is projected to cost $422.3 million, with a District share of $286.1 million after state reimbursement. The renovation/addition option is projected to cost $461.4 million, with a District share of $310.8 million after state reimbursement, and would be expected to take six years to complete.
The District and its building partners will develop a Preferred Schematic Report, which will outline to MSBA its work to date, evaluation of options, and its preferred plan. The District’s Facilities Assessment Subcommittee will meet with MSBA staff and board members to present the preferred option.
The District plans to seek approval from its 11 sending communities in 2024, a process that will include a number of public forums to answer questions and solicit further feedback.
“Whittier has long been committed to preparing the future of our vocational workforce, and we want what is best for our students. At the same time we are very aware of our sending communities, and the financial concerns we all share,” Superintendent Lynch said. “I would like to thank our Building Committee, LeftField Project Management, and JCJ Architecture for their diligent work on this project, and promise we will continue to work toward the most cost-effective plan possible.”

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