PEABODY — Special legislation is needed to allow a long-term land lease agreement so an outside company can build a sports complex on the new Essex Technical High School campus, Superintendent Daniel O’Connell told the North Shore Chamber of Commerce yesterday.
O’Connell spoke to business leaders about the new $135 million project during a breakfast forum at the Holiday Inn on Route 1.
The new 337,700-square-foot technical school with a 42,300-square-foot farmstead in the Hathorne section of Danvers will meld North Shore Technical High in Middleton and Essex Agricultural and Technical School on the Aggie’s campus with Peabody High vocational programs. The school should be ready for 1,440 students this September, O’Connell said.
O’Connell, the superintendent of North Shore Technical High, said this is not the “voke school” of yesteryear. The school’s computer network will be wireless and students will carry iPads to cut down on the cost of textbooks. There are three dining areas distributed throughout the school that can be used as educational spaces. Hallways are designed to double as learning spaces, the furniture is designed to be moved into various configurations, and walls between classrooms, while soundproof, are not load-bearing, so the layout of classrooms can change.
To save money, the school runs its own bus fleet and has a new maintenance facility to repair them.
Another way to boost the new school would be a sports complex of an ice rink and indoor turf field on campus built by an outside firm, O’Connell said. However, legislation is needed to move forward.
“The state only allows three-year leases,” O’Connell said. “That’s just the way it is. However, on certain projects they have done 25-year land leases.”
The problem is the school sits on state-owned land on the campus of Essex Aggie. The law that created the merger on the campus restricted leases to three years to keep a tight leash on how the regional school district might use or dispose of the land in the future, state Rep. Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers, said.