Larger Enrollment at McKinley Means a New Site for School

The McKinley School on Yeamans Street currently holds just under 500 students. State school building officials said last week the new McKinley should seat at least 690 students.

Enrollment requirements for the new McKinley School will almost certainly force the school community to at least consider looking elsewhere to build its new building.

State review teams from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (SBA) have set an enrollment figure for the new McKinley School, and it’s much larger than many expected. In a letter to the School Department late last week, the SBA wrote that it had determined the new McKinley School should seat 690 students – about 200 more students than the existing McKinley School. The news brings up the definite possibility of relocating the school from its current site.

The determination came through a review of the district’s enrollment figures, which have skyrocketed in the last five years.

“Getting the figure of 690 seats did surprise me to a degree, but our pattern of growth is real,” said Superintendent Paul Dakin. “It’s hard data. I’m at the point where I want as many seats as they can get for us. It’s an anomaly, though, to those at the state SBA because most districts are losing students…We’ll be looking at other pieces of land in the area to explore every option so we don’t have anything not looked at when we finally build.”

Many expected the number of seats to be greater than the current number at the McKinley, but few believed it would be some 200 more seats. The number was a key piece of information required in determining whether or not the community should look at other sites, at least to consider those sites as options.

One major site that has been eyed off and on for the new McKinley has been Hill Park, which is much larger than the current site, but would require the relocation of parklands – a very complicated procedure. There has also been a good deal of pushback from veterans organizations and from the Hill and Reinstein families, who believe the park to be sacred ground because it’s named for a fallen war hero from Revere. State Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein has said in the past that she would vehemently oppose any such plan to build a school on Hill Park. She also said she would be very interested in participating in any discussion on the issue.

Dakin said that is exactly what will be happening in the next few months.

Now that the SBA has given the district a seat count for the McKinley, Dakin said that the district and the SBA would be going out to bid for an architect to design the school.

That architect is expected to be secured within the coming month. Then, the architect will design several different options and several different scenarios for the school.

“The architect will come up with about three or four options,” said Dakin. “That’s where it’s in the hands of the architect and the project manager (R.F. Walsh) to give us options. We pay them to give us options and when we have these options, the community can weigh each option to make a decision. They might come up with something on the McKinley site that makes perfect sense and they might come up with something elsewhere that is worth considering.”

He said, though, that any feasibility study of the school – given its size of 690 students – would have to consider Hill Park as one option.

“I think if you’re really going to do a feasibility study that’s going to have to be there – the park,” said Dakin. “It would be an incomplete study not to explore the possibility of doing something there. Could it be eliminated? Sure. Could it be something that’s needed? Sure. That’s not one person’s decision. That’s not just my decision. It’s a community decision.”

Dakin said one other very real possibility is that the McKinley could be scaled down due to financial constraints of the City. Similar things have happened in the past at the other new schools.

“The Paul Revere was supposed to be much bigger and it was scaled down,” said Dakin.

No matter what decision is made, the McKinley School will see its last year of classes this year, as the school community is set to move out early, heading to the Beachmont School next year due to concerns over air quality in the old building.

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