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September 30, 2013

W. Parish plans go for state approval

MSBA will weigh design for $36 million project

Gloucester’s proposal for a new West Parish Elementary School will face a key hearing Wednesday when the Massachusetts School Building Authority Board will decide whether to back what now looms as an overall $36 million project for a building that could house up to 390 students.

The MSBA board, which helps steer communities through costly school construction projects and allocates reimbursement rates based on cities’ demographic and economic data, is poised to consider both Gloucester’s plans and a Beverly proposal for Briscoe Middle School at its regular meeting, set for Wednesday at 10 a.m. at MSBA headquarters, 40 Broad St., Boston.

Dan Collins, MSBA board secretary, emphasized that the meeting is open to the public.

City officials are hoping that the MSBA will give Gloucester the green light for a building based on the “preferred” design that the city’s School Building Committee submitted to the state board last month.

That proposal, coming on the heels of a $500,000 feasibility study and a report from the architectural firm Dore & Whittier released last May, calls for a new school that would be built on the current West Parish site and would include 16 classrooms.

Mayor Carolyn Kirk said over the weekend that the facility could handle up to 390 students at an average of 24 students per room — higher than many current class sizes and larger overall than an initial 2012 MSBA recommendation that a new school have a capacity of 355. The current enrollment at West Parish — pegged at 380 students and more than 70 staffers at the time of the initial MSBA recommendation — is now about 360, school officials said.

Kirk noted that the projected cost of the project — which would, if approved, be reimbursed by the state through the MSBA at a rate of 48.7 percent — includes the estimated cost of relocating West Parish’s students, teachers and staff for the anticipated two-year duration of the building project.

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