(See additional photographs in gallery below.)
The first students who will attend the new Dr. Albert B. Consentino School when it opens in 2026 were among those in attendance Monday morning for ceremonies marking the official start of construction.
Consentino School Principal Richard Poor, who served as master of ceremonies for the chilly outdoor event, made note of the students as he welcomed city and state officials, including Massachusetts School Building Authority CEO James A. MacDonald.
“I’d like to give a special shout out to our fifth graders—all 225 of them—who will likely be the first class to occupy the new Consentino School,” Poor said, followed by cheers and loud applause.
Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini, who thanked mayor-elect Melinda E. Barrett and other local elected leaders as well as the city’s legislative delegation for their support, also directed his remarks to students.
“Mostly, I want to thank you kids. You’ve been great. You’re so well-behaved today and I’m so impressed. Your parents are paying for the school. So, give yourselves a round of applause. This school’s for you and I’m so proud to be here as your mayor,” he said.
The mayor took the crowd into his confidence, revealing how the Consntino School leapfrogged ahead of the John Greenleaf Whittier School to win state approval for replacement. He said the Building Authority’s then-Executive Director John “Jack” K. McCarthy asked him which of the two schools should go first for state reimbursement.
“He said, ‘I know you’re interested, the city is interested in, a couple of schools in Haverhill and which one do you really want?’ I said, There really isn’t any question about it, Mr. McCarthy, we want a new school at Consentino. These kids deserve a new school,” he recalled.
MacDonald told the audience the new school will make a difference in Haverhill.
“This is a great, great milestone for what will be for a school that’s going to transform the community and transform the students,” he said.
The state is picking up $80.5 million—or about half—of the of the cost of the estimated $160 million cost of the new middle school.
Sen. Barry R. Finegold and Rep. Andy X. Vargas also addressed the group. Finegold said the school will “pay dividends” to the city, while Vargas gave students a brief lesson in democracy.
“You realize that this is a part of what you may have learned in some classed called democracy. It’s about government. It’s about politics. Sometimes. You may think those are ugly words based off what you see on TV. But there actually beautiful words when we can work together and do something like this—build a beautiful school for our students,” he said.
Vargas also singled out, and presented a House citation to, Nathan Hartwell and Joanna Dix, co-chairs of the Yes for Consentino! Yes for Haverhill! Committee that successful won voter approval last spring for a debt exclusion to pay for the school.
Haverhill School Superintendent Margaret Marotta also gave a sneak preview of what future visitors to the new Consentino School will see. She noted the theme of the school building will be “The River,” with colors and other insignia representing the Merrimack River throughout the structure.