School building authority OKs funding for new middle school in Holyoke

Staff Report

Published: 06-21-2023 4:54 PM

HOLYOKE — Construction plans for a new $85.5 million middle school in the city can move forward now that the Massachusetts School Building Authority has agreed to pay for a portion of the costs to build the school.

The MSBA voted Wednesday to reimburse $46 million of the cost, leaving the city on the hook for the remaining $40 million. Plans call for the new middle school to be built on the site where the William R. Peck School now stands.

“With MSBA’s approval today, we can now move forward with demolition of the Peck School later this summer,” Holyoke Mayor Joshua A. Garcia said. “I very much appreciate the MSBA’s financial support of this project. I also deeply appreciate the support from my colleagues on the Holyoke City Council. Their unanimous vote of support on June 6 clearly demonstrates our shared commitment to help pay for and build this much-needed new school.”

Sullivan School, Holyoke STEM and Metcalf Middle School will serve all middle schoolers while the school is being constructed.

In 2016, Holyoke Public Schools hired a consulting firm to analyze the condition of all of Holyoke’s school buildings. The consultant concluded that Peck School should no longer be used for education because of the building’s aging infrastructure and poor original design that does not meet the needs of today’s students.

That report became the driving force behind the city’s efforts over the past seven years to secure an alternative to Peck School.

When it opens in the fall or winter of 2025, the new middle school will serve approximately 550 students in grades 6-8.

Holyoke tried unsuccessfuly to bring a school project to fruition. Voters in 2019 overwhelmingly rejected a ballot question asking for a debt-exclusion override for a proposal to build two new middle schools.

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This time, the city’s aim is to bond for just one school without the need for an override, under the “model school” program, which reduces design costs. Erin Linville, chief of strategy for the Holyoke Public Schools, said in February that Garcia is working to ensure borrowing for the project can be financed without the need for an override.

Built in 1973, Peck has substantial problems, including internal classrooms with no windows, mechanical systems at the end of their design lives or missing vital components that are no longer made, and unusable science labs, according to school district employees.

“While there are many steps we must take between now and when the new middle school is ready to occupy in fall or winter 2025, today marks the turning point between our vision for Holyoke’s future and the reality that can now come to life,” said Holyoke Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Soto. “The time is right for Holyoke to build this new school, and we appreciate the support of everyone who brought us to this day.”