Shrewsbury High School expansion not selected by MSBA

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Shrewsbury High School is over capacity in terms of enrollment, with 1,875 students currently learning in a building built for 1,475. Photo/Dakota Antelman
Shrewsbury High School’s expansion project was not selected by the MSBA. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)

SHREWSBURY – The Shrewsbury High School (SHS) expansion project will not be moving forward for now.

Superintendent Joe Sawyer announced at the Dec. 21 School Committee meeting that the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) did not select the SHS expansion project. The MSBA, which is primarily funded by one penny of every sales tax, provides funds and support for constructing new educational facilities.

“The [MSBA] made it clear the information we provided was compelling, and they reminded me that each year the process starts anew and communities are welcome to submit a statement of interest again for the same project,” said Sawyer.

Sawyer noted that many of this year’s chosen projects had been resubmitted in previous MSBA application cycles.

Shrewsbury has previously worked with the building authority when building the Sherwood Middle School and the new Maj. Howard W. Beal Elementary School. The district most recently worked with the MSBA to coordinate the recent window replacement at Oak Middle School.

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“Shrewsbury has been incredibly lucky that every time we had asked, MSBA said yes the first time. That is not the norm, and I wouldn’t want our residents to think there is something terribly amiss,” said School Committee member Lynsey Heffernan.

Much of Shrewsbury’s argument hinged on Shrewsbury High School’s “chronic overcrowding.” The high school was designed in 2002 to hold 1,475 students, which is equivalent to 1,250 students by today’s design standards. At its peak in 2020, the school held close to 1,900 students. Overcrowding is the MSBA’s second-most important item of consideration, ranking only behind safety concerns.

The MSBA came in the fall to meet with town officials and tour the school with architects.

“We met with about three or four officials from the MSBA, couple of architects. We toured the building. We explained what the impact is of not having sufficient space… [and] provided lots of information in addition to what we had already submitted with the statement of interest. It was a strong meeting,” said Sawyer.

The effort for the MSBA grant began in March, when the board voted to submit the statement of interest (SOI).

Sawyer recommended trying the process again, starting with submitting another SOI in early 2024.

“I think this is something that we need to keep pushing forward because the need is not going away,” said School Committee Chair Sandra Fryc.

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