Members of the Andover High School Building Committee told its first public forum Thursday a new school would not open until 2032 if the town waited for state funding.
Andover has been rejected 10 times for funding by the Massachusetts School Building Authority, including five straight rejections. Reasons include a high number of annual submissions for state funding, schools in more urgent need of replacement, and the fact that Andover is currently receiving MSBA funding for the West Elementary and Shawsheen Preschool construction project.
That prompted the building committee to begin looking at options to renovate or replace the school entirely with local funding.
“At best we were looking at 2032 to get something done, which would mean two more generations going through the high school,” AHS Building Committee Chair Mark Johnson said at the forum, which was held at Memorial Hall Library on Nov. 10.
While the committee has not taken a formal position on whether it will ask town meeting to approve replacing or renovating the high school, it has signaled the school has outlived its useful life and needs to be replaced.
The current high school was designed for 1,200 students in grades 10-12 and opened along with Dunn Gym in 1968. The Collins Center was added in 1983. The last significant renovation came in 1995, when the science wing and field house were added, and the school was expanded to include ninth graders. AHS is just one of three high schools in Essex County that has not been replaced or had major renovations in the past 25 years.
The committee outlined problems at the current school at Thursday’s forum, including outdated technology, poor insulation and mechanical ventilation, and small classrooms with poor lighting. Portions of the building do not meet current building codes or comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The committee has not discussed how much a new school would cost, but has acknowledged it’s “not going to be an easy sell” to convince town meeting to fully fund the project with local money. Among the committee’s goals for a new school are improving safety, eliminating overcrowding and accommodate enrollment growth and improve site use on the campus.
“We’re not building to the projected enrollment numbers we have now,” Johnson said. “We want to build so there’s flexibility in the future…the idea is to build a school in Andover that’s going to last for 50 years.”
The next community forum is a virtual forum scheduled for Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. The committee hopes to ask town meeting for funding next fall, following a six-month schematic design process beginning in February.
Video of Nov. 10 AHS Community Forum From Andover TV