The select board held off and scheduling a special town meeting that stands as the next obstacle for a proposal to build a new high school when it meets next week.
The Andover High School Building Committee wants to ask special town meeting to approve $1.3 million for a detailed, schematic design of the building. Preliminary estimates put the cost at $480.9 million.
Andover Town Manager Andrew Flanagan is trying to schedule a quad-board meeting of the select board, and school, finance, and building committees to review the building committee’s request for September, but said it may not happen until early October. A key agenda item at that meeting will likely be a presentation on the impact to the Town’s bond rating if it moves ahead without state aid for the $80.9 million project.
“While we’ll be ready in September, I’m not sure we can get everyone in the same room in September,” Flanagan said. Select Board Chair Melissa Danisch said the board may have more information and be able to schedule the special town meeting at its next meeting on Sept. 18. Once approved by the select board, the special town meeting would have to be held within 35 days.
Expecting the select board to take action on the project, two Andover residents spoke against it during the board’s public comment period.
Bob Pokress of Cherrywood Circle compared “the beating drum mantra of Andover High School overcrowding” to the Vietnam and Iraq Wars. He said the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s 10 rejections of Andover’s applications to build a new high school was “a clear message to Andover residents by the professional educators in our state, that we do not have any kind of building crisis as the building committee has talked itself into believing.
“Just as the Kennedy, Johnson, Bush administration’s best and brightest talked themselves into believing fictions that enabled them to push for their preconceived agenda,” Pokress said. “In our case, the school department is trying to push on the town the spending of over half a billion dollars – a staggering number, as far as I’m concerned.”
Chair Melissa Danisch cut Pokress off when his prepared remarks went past the three-minute time limit allotted for speakers during the meeting’s public comment period. Joseph Ponti, who has worked as a substitute teacher at the high school, said he had never been in what he would consider an overcrowded classroom.
“There’s gotta be a better solution,” Ponti said. “The big question you have to ask is if we tear down the existing school and build a new one, will it unequivocally without a doubt improve the educational experience? Sometimes in Andover, we do throw money around as the main solution.”
File photo: Dave Copeland/Andover News