SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

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May 23, 2014

Essex Tech's final touches

Tour highlights state-of-art school's signature features

(Continued)

“I’m thrilled; I’m thrilled,” said Berry of his first impression of the school. “I had a vision of this, and this vision is being fulfilled. I thought it was very important to get a first-class vocational school for my district. We had none. Every place in the commonwealth had theirs. I had to fight for mine. Now, I cannot be happier.”

Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt also came along. Peabody is new to the regional vocational school district and will have one of the largest enrollments of any community in the new school.

“It’s exciting to think about the type of learning that is going to take place,” Bettencourt said, “and it’s going to benefit the students of Peabody for many years to come.”

O’Connell said many spaces in the school are designed to have more than one function. Bump-out areas in corridors can also be used as learning spaces. Walls between classrooms can be taken down or moved as space needs change.

“The classrooms are all connected in tubes, so you have little knuckles of classrooms that have a soundproof wall between them that can be separated,” O’Connell said. “None of the walls between classrooms are (load) carrying walls, so 10 to 15 years from now, if we have to redesign anything, it’s just knocking out a metal studded wall with soundproofing.”

Since the school is so large, officials created a main cafeteria and two dining areas lit by a soaring wall of glass and steel. The smaller dining areas are also “flexible learning spaces” where lectures can be held. Technology to run presentations are built into the walls, and cafeteria furniture can be turned into classroom furniture.

This kind of flexibility also extends to science labs, O’Connell said.

One of the signature features is a circular restaurant, which is suspended over the main cafeteria. The plan is to have the restaurant open four days a week for breakfast and lunch, and for private functions and business meetings, all served by culinary arts students.

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