SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

October 9, 2012

The goal: A modern middle school for Beverly

(Continued)

The first step in the process of building a new middle school began late in 2011 when both the School Committee (Dec. 14, 2011) and the City Council (Dec. 19, 2011) unanimously voted in support of filing a statement of interest with the Massachusetts School Building Authority. Drawing on the results from the work completed the previous year by the Strategic Planning Committee’s Facilities Planning Group, the statement of interest outlined the constraints that the Briscoe building has on preparing students for higher education and the 21st century.

The School Committee, along with city and district administration, jointly filed a statement of interest with the MSBA on Jan. 6, 2012. Our application, along with all other new and repeat statement-of-interest applications received, is currently under review. The well-written, 20-plus-page document clearly outlines the needs for a new middle school. In this plan, we are classified as a Priority 7 school, which means that the plan consists of “replacement of or addition to obsolete buildings in order to provide for a full range of programs consistent with state and approved local requirements.” Included in our filed plan is the caveat that should too much time elapse, we could become a Priority 1 school, meaning “replacement or renovation of a building which is structurally unsound or otherwise in a condition seriously jeopardizing the health and safety of schoolchildren where no alternative exists.”

Late in January 2012, state Treasurer Steven Grossman, along with lead members of the MSBA team, toured both Beverly High School and, later that day, Briscoe Middle School. This allowed these key individuals to see how successful Beverly was in its most recent building project and, more importantly, to see firsthand after touring Briscoe what we were describing in our just-filed statement of interest.

At this point, we are awaiting word from the MSBA regarding our statement of interest. Ideally, we will hear a positive response from the state to engage in more specific discussion regarding the best educational, practical and cost-effective solution to providing education to our middle school students. In the interim, the commitment of the School Committee and district administration, as well as the dedication of the leadership and teaching staff at Briscoe, along with constant attention to the building, will continue to allow us to creatively provide a comprehensive, exploratory middle school curriculum in a tired but strong and beautiful building.

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