Haverhill School Committee Endorses Modular Classrooms for Whittier Middle School

John Greenleaf Whittier School. (Jay Saulnier file photograph for WHAV News.)

The Haverhill School Committee is supporting a plan to purchase modular classrooms as one means of alleviating overcrowding at the John Greenleaf Whittier School.

As WHAV reported previously, that school, which was built in 1957, has a lack of classroom space as well as structural issues and obsolete technology. A number of parents attended last night’s Committee meeting to express support for modular classrooms. Among them, Jennifer Morse, mother of a Whittier School student.

“I’m concerned that the education is not equitable at JGW due to the lack of space. The lack of space directly impacts both teaching and learning,” she said.

Modular units under consideration include six classrooms and two bathrooms that would cost about $3 million. The units would not be ready for use until September, 2024. Because of the cost involved, the proposal must be approved by the City Council and mayor. For that reason, Committee member Richard J. Rosa said it is important the Committee members be united in support of the idea.

“It’s a capital project. It’s something that the city needs to allocate money for. I think it’s important that we support it,” Rosa said.

Rosa added, despite claims to the contrary, figures provided by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education indicate enrollment in Haverhill Public Schools will likely be increasing. He stated that Haverhill’s school enrollment will reach 8,036 students in the next couple of weeks—only 27 less that the all-time high of 8,063 in 2019-2020 and 298 more than last year’s total student population.

Committee members agreed the module classroom plan was a necessity, voting 6-0 in support of the idea with Mayor James J. Fiorentini abstaining.

In the shorter term, school Superintendent Margaret Marotta suggested changing where students will attend next year as a means of alleviating some of the overcrowding issues. Those included, “Tilton Upper grade four, currently Tilton Lower grade three to remain at Tilton Lower next year. For the students that are currently Tilton Upper grade four to move to the Consentino School.”

Marotta said the plan also calls for moving gateway program students to St. James School which would be open by then.

The Committee voted unanimously for the plan as described

Additionally, those ideas all coincided with the Committee’s decision to go ahead with filing a Statement of Interest with the Massachusetts School Building Authority for the replacement of the Whittier School entirely.

Assistant Superintendent Michael J. Pfifferling read from the statement which described the myriad of problems with the current building.

With the recent approval of funding for the Dr. Albert B. Consentino School, however, he admitted the request may be somewhat of a longshot.

“I believe this will be the fourth consecutive year that we have submitted for the John Greenleaf Whittier School. It’s my belief we need to keep this in front of MSBA at all times to let them know that we are seriously in need of a new or renovated building,” he said.

The request must be submitted to the state by April 14 and the Committee voted unanimously to do so.

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