BY PAUL LEIGHTON
---- — The state has asked Beverly to resubmit its plan to build a new middle school, but local officials say the project remains on target for a 2017 opening.
The Massachusetts School Building Authority last month directed the city to resubmit the “statement of interest” filed last January. The statement of interest is the first step in seeking state funding for the project, which has been estimated to cost around $40 million.
Mayor Bill Scanlon said the School Building Authority pushed off Beverly’s plan until next year because the city is not yet ready to pay for the feasibility study that is required as the next step in the process.
Scanlon said the money will become available next year as the city finishes paying off debt for past projects, including renovations of the elementary schools.
“I feel very optimistic about being able to go forward with it,” Scanlon said.
The city plans to expand and renovate the former Memorial Middle School on Cabot Street to replace the 89-year-old Briscoe Middle School that now houses nearly 1,000 students.
Massachusetts School Building Authority spokesman Dan Collins said it is not unusual for the agency to ask communities to resubmit statements before they are accepted into the pipeline. He said the agency received 280 statements of interest in 2012.
“It was deemed that Beverly Middle School didn’t quite rise to the level of invitation into our pipeline,” he said.
School Committee President Maria Decker said she will take the opportunity to add new information that could bolster the city’s chances of gaining state funding for a new middle school.
Decker said enrollment is increasing in the city’s schools and that Briscoe is continuing to have problems with its aging building. Asbestos floor tiles were recently removed from the cafeteria, she said. Leaks in the roof during Hurricane Sandy forced the closure of a classroom for a day.
Decker said she has been meeting with school PTOs to reassure them that plans for the new middle school are still on schedule. She said 130 communities filed “repeat” statements of interests last year.
“It’s very typical to have to be a repeat one,” she said. “I’m not surprised by it, and the timing doesn’t change. I feel very confident in a September 2017 opening.”
Decker said the feasibility study required by the Massachusetts School Building Authority would cost about $500,000. Construction would begin in 2015, she said.
Decker said the School Committee is scheduled to vote Jan. 9 on approving the re-submission of the statement of interest. The City Council is expected to vote on the matter on Jan. 22. Both bodies voted in favor of submitting the original statement.
School officials favor building a middle school to accommodate grades five through eight, a change from the current grade-six-to-eight configuration at Briscoe, although the exact plans for the building are still to be determined.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.