SAUGUS — Developers will break ground on a new middle-high school on Tuesday.
“I’m excited beyond belief to see this vision become a reality,” said Jeannie Meredith, chairwoman of the Saugus School Committee and School Building Committee. “I can’t thank the community enough for their continued support. It’s been a long time since the kids of Saugus were put first.”
The school is expected to be completed by 2020.
Voters overwhelmingly supported two debt exclusions to allow for the construction of the new school and a restructuring of the entire district during a special election last June.
More than 4,900 residents, about 25 percent of registered voters, visited the polls to vote on the two questions and more than twice as many people supported each than those who voted against them.
The first question requested $160 million for a grades 6-12 combination middle and high school. The second sought support for a $25 million district-wide master plan that would restructure the district to include an upper elementary school for grades 3-5 at the existing Belmonte Middle School and a lower elementary school for Pre-K through grade 2 at the Veterans Memorial Elementary School.
Following the election, the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), the quasi-independent government agency that funds public schools, awarded the town a grant of up to $63.8 million to construct the building.
The master plan is a town project and is to being pursued through the MSBA. The town’s share of the total project is estimated to be $118 million, bonded over a 30-year period.
The new school will be 270,000 square feet with a 12,000 square-foot gymnasium, 750-seat auditorium, and capacity for 1,360 students. It will have state-of-the-art science labs and technology classrooms, fine and performing arts classrooms, a sports complex and outdoor track, outdoor classroom space and student gardens.
Tina Stanislaski, project manager with HMFH Architects Inc., said the team looked at historic buildings and sites in Saugus to draw inspiration for the school’s architecture.
The Saugus Iron Works that exists today is a reconstruction of the first successful, integrated iron works in the New World which produced wrought iron and cast iron products from 1646 to 1670. The site is considered the birthplace of the iron and steel industry in Colonial America, according to the National Park Service website.
“The power of that site is in the water wheel and that’s how they generated power to do what they needed to do,” Stanislaski said at a meeting earlier this year. “We looked at those as our different hubs in the classroom pods where the work is taking place for the STEAM program the town is promoting now.”
The bellows inside the iron works inspired the angular shapes in the school’s entrance, and the hallways that transport students to their classrooms will follow the route of the Saugus River.
The building is broken down into three parts and includes two classroom pods on either end of shared programs, like the gym, auditorium and media center, said Stanislaski.
A light well will be featured in each of the classroom pods with a graphic that will teach students about the history of their town.
Tens of thousands of commuters who pass by the school on Route 1 will see a lit sign that lets them know they are passing by the heart of the town, Stanislaski said.
Trees for the property will be grown at the town’s tree farm.
The hope is that the school will help facilitate the district’s goal of moving from a Level 3 to a Level 1 school district and allow fair and equal access for all students to reach their highest potential, according to a statement from Town Manager Scott Crabtree.
The new building is also necessary to address health and safety issues including identified deficiencies in fire protection, sprinkler systems and handicap accessibility.
“This new school, education plan and district-wide vision will transform the way education is valued within this community,” said Crabtree. “Most importantly, it will provide equal, equitable opportunities for students to access educational resources and reach their highest potential.”
A groundbreaking ceremony will be held Tuesday, July 17 at 1 p.m. at the existing Saugus High School property at 1 Pearce Memorial Drive.