SAUGUS — Iron workers raised the final beam in the construction of a new, 270,000-square-foot middle-high school Friday as voters and students cheered them on.
“I think it’s going to be exciting,” said Khaled Ladid, a 10-year-old student at Veterans Memorial Elementary School. “It doesn’t look like much because it doesn’t have any walls, but I think it will be big and amazing.”
Ladid said he’s excited to one day attend the school and he hopes it will have an updated computer lab and resources that will help lay the foundation for his career as a veterinarian.
“This was our football field and now it’s a school, so it’s kind of sad, but we need this school to learn,” said John Dow, 10. “Education is important.”
Alongside his classmates and a crowd of residents, he scribbled his name in colorful marker on the 2,000-pound steel beam.
The beam “will almost be like a time capsule,” said Town Manager Scott Crabtree. “It’s really about you guys (the kids). Today we are all a part of history.”
Construction of the school began last June. Since then, about 5,100 pieces of steel have been erected and 14,600 cubic yards of concrete have been placed. Roughly 22,000 square feet of roofing has been installed, and more than 85,000 labor-hours have been worked.
“I want to acknowledge the work of the iron workers, Local 7; without them, it doesn’t happen,” said Crabtree.
Saugus Iron Works superintendent Paul DePrey gave the children a lesson on the town’s history, as the site of the first integrated ironworks in North America.
“The skills required to produce this facility started just a mile from here,” said DePrey.
When complete, the new middle-high school will be 270,000 square feet in total, including a 12,000-square-foot gymnasium and capacity for 1,360 students in grades six through 12. It will house state-of-the-art science labs and technology classrooms, fine and performing arts classrooms and a 750-seat auditorium. In addition, plans include a new sports complex and outdoor track, walking paths, outdoor classrooms, and student gardens. Administrative offices will be moved from the Roby Building.
The school has two wings — one for the high school and the other for the middle school — with common areas on each floor, said Tina Stanislaski, project manager with HMFH Architects Inc.
The middle school side has three stories and the high school side has four.
Each floor has a central area with project space to celebrate Science Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM).
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 in June 2017.
The first question requested $160 million for a grades six through 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 three through five at the existing Belmonte Middle School and a lower elementary school for pre-K through second grade 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 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 school is expected to be completed by 2020.