By Seth Daniel
As Supt. Dianne Kelly puts the finishing touches on the district’s second submission to the state to begin discussions about a new Revere High School (RHS), she said that her hope is the new high school can be relocated, paving the way for one centralized middle school and an expansion of the elementary programs into the existing middle schools.
This week, Kelly said that the Statement of Interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) is due on April 7, and the re-submitted Statement will be turned in on April 6. Revere did file a Statement of Interest last year with the MSBA to get the new RHS project into the “pipeline” – or in other words, to begin the overall discussion. However, due to more pressing needs statewide, the district was turned away and urged to resubmit this year.
“All the paperwork is done,” said Kelly. “The application is nearly complete…It doesn’t mean they’ll definitely fund us, but we think we will be able to get into the core program.”
The School Committee voted on March 21 at its monthly meeting to allow Kelly to go forward with the submission. Typically, the MSBA reviews Statements throughout the year and makes decisions at its December board meeting.
Were the schools to be accepted, it would begin a discussion about the best way to build a new RHS – a discussion that will involve the state, the schools, the City Council and the mayor.
“If we are accepted we would move into the Feasibility Study and we would seek the input of a lot of people,” she said. “The mayor and the City Council will have an opportunity to provide input and let us know what we can and cannot do.”
For Kelly, her optimum plan would be to locate a new piece of land in Revere to build a new RHS upon. That, she said, would allow the schools to discontinue the three middle schools now in use – the Susan B. Anthony, the Rumney Marsh and the Garfield Middle. Instead of the three-school approach, she said they would like to use the old RHS building as a centralized middle school for the entire city.
“My hope would be to find another piece of land for the high school so the current high school building can become a central middle school,” she said. “That, however, requires a land acquisition that isn’t reimbursable by the MSBA funds. It means a real investment of City funds to get the land.”
The cost of land at the moment is very high, making the prospects of an all-out purchase very difficult for the City. That said, Kelly indicated she and Mayor Brian Arrigo have had discussions about using development mitigation to perhaps land a piece of land at little or no cost.
“The mayor and I have had a lot of conversations about this and talked about in-kind contributions from new businesses and from developers coming to the city,” she said.
Her plan likely would eliminate the troubles with fifth graders having to choose one of three middle schools, and the yearly prospect of a Middle School Lottery for the most popular of the three schools.
The greater positive to that plan, however, would be converting the three current middle schools into elementary schools. That would relieve a lot of pressure that exists in the new elementary schools – which are already overcrowded due to spiking enrollments.
This year, the school district grew by 350 students, while last year it grew by 370 students. That’s an increase of 520 students in two years, which is also built on several previous years of increased enrollments. The district has more students now than it has had in many decades. Much of the pressure of that increase right now lies within the elementary and middle schools.
It’s a scary problem that could be solved with the central middle school plan.
“Even our new schools like Paul Revere and Hill School are at capacity,” she said. “The reason we have had to have a middle school lottery for such a long time is because our middle schools are crowded. With a central middle school, we could convert the current middle schools into elementary schools and that would alleviate the problem across the board. Building a new high school in the same footprint does not give us relief at the middle and elementary schools. It means we would have to also eventually build another elementary school and another middle school.”
The other options, if the City and the state determine that relocating the high school is not feasible, are a little more drastic. Such plans would include expanding middle school from grades 6-8 to grades 5-8 – leaving elementary schools with more room due to having one fewer grade. About 10 years ago, Revere moved the sixth grade students into the middle school. Prior to that, middle school only consisted of grades 7-8.
“It’s probably premature to think about that right now though,” she said.