Will North Reading Stand Alone?

Will North Reading join its neighbors in accepting millions of dollars from the state for its Middle School/High School project? Or will we find ourselves standing alone?

When the polls close Saturday, will North Reading join its neighbors in accepting millions of dollars from the state for its Middle School/High School project? Or will we find ourselves standing alone, left to fix our aging schools on our own dime without any state funding?

To be sure, North Reading shouldn’t follow the crowd and build schools just because our neighbors are doing it. We should build schools because the need is clearly documented and because it is an opportune time financially. Both of these criteria hold true for North Reading as Saturday’s ballot approaches.

The need is clear. Our schools are overcrowded, with 18 modulars on the two schools combined and a shortage of science labs that requires acrobatics by teachers and students alike to get in adequate lab time. When the high school undergoes New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) review in 2014, such issues will put its accreditation at risk – and a town without an accredited high school cannot remain vibrant nor can it fulfill its responsibilities in public education. The NEASC standards state as accreditation criteria (see page 8): "The community funds and the school implements a long-range plan that addresses: programs and services; enrollment changes and staffing needs; facility needs; technology; and capital improvements. The schools not only are too small, but after 50 years of excellent service, they have deficiencies in technology, energy, electrical, ventilation, and other areas common to buildings a half-century old.

The time is opportune. Despite the poor economy, historically low interest rates and $47 million in state funding mean that North Reading will never get a deal this good again. The state grant comes from one penny of our sales tax – the sales tax North Reading residents pay each time they make a purchase. The MSBA has approved $47 million of these funds to come back to North Reading, but voters have to say yes.

Our neighbors’ High School projects are approved and ready to go:

  • Wilmington, $38 million from MSBA
  • Danvers, $37 million from MSBA
  • Tewksbury, $36 million from MSBA


The MSBA focuses on the right-sized, most fiscally responsible, and educationally appropriate solutions to create safe and sound learning environments. There are no luxuries. In its six-year history, the MSBA has made more than $8 billion in reimbursements to cities, towns, and regional school districts for school construction projects

Whose students and whose property values will North Reading care for next? Will we send our share of state funding to another town, or on Saturday, March 24, will we elect to keep North Reading strong? It’s time to follow the crowd, North Reading, because in this case other cities and towns have gotten it right.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Joe O'Rourke March 21, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Are we going to freeze all other capital expenditure for town improvements for the foreseeable future? Looks like it doesn't it. A city sewer project for route 28 and concord street would give the town the ability to slit the tax rate. I guess all the years researching that must pale in comparison. This project is too big, and too expensive. Joe O'Rourke
JP Lee March 21, 2012 at 06:32 PM
The issues with the MS/HS aren't going away, and this plan is actually a sensible one - shared core facilities, no student relocation during construction, energy efficiency, removal of the big $ pit that are the modulars, etc. This is the best deal we will get - the cost will just go up in the future. Borrowing costs are dirt cheap right now. North Reading has 1250 more houses since those schools were built. It's a big problem, which needs a big solution. A band-aid will not work. We need to fix this problem, and also address the sewer issue in the commercial zone. That will be partially funded by the sewer fees. There are ways to make it work.
JIM March 22, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Didn't we already vote no on the sewer project
Maureen Vacca March 23, 2012 at 11:20 AM
Well said JP Lee.


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