Most Whittier Tech Communities Meet with School; Withdrawal From State Process Seen Likely

Superintendent Maureen Lynch, rear, speaks with mayors and community leaders about Whittier Tech’s building needs. (Courtesy photograph.)

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It is unlikely another election will take place anytime soon on the future of Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School, but leaders agree there will be better communication.

The Haverhill, Newburyport and Amesbury mayors, most area town managers or administrators and school officials met Tuesday afternoon to reflect on the recent ballot box defeat of a $445 million replacement school. Superintendent Maureen Lynch said the school will do a better job of keeping in the loop the 11 communities that send students.

“We’ll find a path forward. I’m optimistic. We have to do something for the future of our children,” she told WHAV.

While a final decision is up to the Whittier Tech School Committee when it gathers next Tuesday, Feb. 13, it appears likely the school will withdraw its statement of interest from the Massachusetts School Building Authority. The state, as expected, refused to grant an extension last week, saying the only options would be another vote by its deadline of April 11 or leaving the state reimbursement program for what could be many years.

Whatever happens, Lynch noted projects requiring immediate attention are wastewater, electrical and HVAC systems.

Although every community has representatives on the Whittier Tech School Committee, few are said to have advised their hometowns on progress toward renovation or replacement over the last four years the project was under state-supervised study.

Besides communication, those attending Tuesday’s meeting listed various concerns. These include Whittier Tech’s Regional Agreement, which distributes capital costs based on total numbers of K-12 students per community rather than the number of students who attend; the challenges of seeking Proposition 2½ overrides to pay for large projects;and the low state reimbursement rate for technical school projects. The Whittier Tech state reimbursement rate was 37%, considerably lower than other school projects.

Voters rejected the replacement project on Jan. 23 by 16,123 to 5,714. Haverhill was the only community with a majority in favor, coming in at 2,628 to 1,906.

Besides Lynch, those attending the meeting were Amesbury Mayor Kassandra Gove, Haverhill Mayor Melinda E. Barrett, Newburyport Mayor Sean Reardon, Ipswich Town Manager Stephen Crane, Salisbury Town Manager Neil Harrington, Groveland Town Administrator Rebecca Oldham, Newbury Town Administrator Tracy Blais, West Newbury Town Administrator Angus Jennings, Merrimac Finance Director Carol McLeod, Whittier Tech Business Manager Kara Kosmes and Whittier Tech School Committee member Richard P. Early Jr. of Haverhill. Officials from Georgetown and Rowley did not attend.

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