School Committee Asks State for J.G. Whittier Replacement; State to Pay 76% of Consentino

Haverhill School Committee member Paul A. Magliocchetti. (Courtesy photograph.)

The Haverhill School Committee voted Thursday to submit a statement of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority, asking for money to replace the John Greenleaf Whittier School.

The replacement request is based primarily on overcrowded conditions at the school which are expected to worsen as the population increases. The school, which was built in 1957, provides just over 103 square feet per student. The optimal space requirement is 154 square feet per child. Currently, the average class size is 27 students with 20 considered ideal. The lack of space has also resulted in classes having to be held in the cafeteria, hallways and even storage areas. In addition, the school has had problems with its boilers, and its electrical system is inadequate for some current technology.

Although he agreed with the need for a new school building, Mayor James J. Fiorentini said the public needs to know the chance of getting approval at this time is highly unlikely.

“If the school committee and the Council want to submit this, I won’t stand in the way. I’ll submit it. But we’re not being transparent with the voters. This will not happen. The only way to pay for it is for an override so what we’re voting for is an override,” the mayor said.

Committee member Paul A. Magliocchetti disagreed with the mayor’s assessment stating that, particularly in light of the uncertainty we now face, it was important that the city not sit back and wait.

“It’s not like this is something that we are going to be doing next year. We’re not going to be asking the voter to do an override this year, next year or even the year after that, but it does need to happen. It needs to happen for the city of Haverhill, for our children, for education, just to keep the city moving in a positive direction,” Magliocchetti said.

That request will now go before the City Council on Tuesday and, if approved, will be submitted Wednesday, the deadline for consideration.

In a related matter, Assistant School Superintendent Michael Pfifferling said the city has received a funding plan from the state regarding the Dr. Albert B. Consentino School. He said the state has agreed to reimburse the city for 76 percent of the cost of repairing or replacing that school. Fiorentini was quick to point out, however, that was a misleading figure because, he said the School Building Authority actually caps the amount you can spend per square foot to what he called “an unrealistic number.”

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