Saugus residents voted overwhelmingly in 2017 for a $185 million plan to shove their schools into the 21st century and the reality of those votes is taking shape.
The future of education in town can be seen outside Saugus High School where the new $160 million middle-high school is under construction. Since work began last October, more than 3,000 pieces of steel and 13,000 cubic yards of concrete have gone into place to construct a building that will rival the giant private developments under construction on Route 1.
But the plan voters signed off on in June 2017 isn’t just about a new, technologically modern school to educate current and future generations of town students. Voters also answered “yes” when they were asked at the polls to envision a radical reconfiguration of local schools.
The middle-high school scheduled to open by 2020 will be attended by sixth through 12th graders and a $25 million district-wide master plan signed off on by residents restructures elementary school education into upper school for grades 3-5 at Belmonte Middle School and a pre-kindergarten through second grade school at Veterans Memorial Elementary School.
The Waybright, Lynnhurst and Oaklandvale schools will be closed, along with the Roby administration building. The closings represent a tangible and irrevocable declaration by Saugus parents to close the door on the way students are taught in town now and and embrace teaching methods that will match the new school structure.
The change won’t unfold without concerns, complaints and confusion. Change is always a bumpy road, but Saugus administrators and residents made a bold decision to embrace change.
School Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi is in the vanguard leading the town into a new education era. He worked to smooth the way this week by announcing plans to draft a uniform schedule for the middle-high school that will be part of one handbook for conduct and expectations distributed to students.
DeRuosi also announced his goal of crafting a mentorship program matching high school students with middle school students. The program could also include community internships opportunities designed to help students get more involved in the town around the school they are attending.
The building skeleton rising next to the high school is a symbol of change and new thinking for Saugus.