School Committee votes to pursue Shrewsbury High expansion again

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School Committee votes to pursue Shrewsbury High expansion again
The School Committee voted to submit a statement of interest to MSBA to expand Shrewsbury High School. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

SHREWSBURY – After an unsuccessful bid last year, the School Committee voted on March 13 to submit another statement of interest (SOI) to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) to potentially expand Shrewsbury High School.

A review of the district’s buildings revealed that Shrewsbury High School was most in need of an upgrade. The high school was designed in 2002 to hold 1,475 students, which is equivalent to 1,250 students by today’s design standards. The school was over capacity by 2006, and at its peak in 2020, the school held close to 1,900 students.

“I think it’s probably the worst-kept secret amongst our board in terms of the [district’s] needs. Enrollment is not changing in the next 10 years… so those needs are going to become greater as the years go on,” said School Committee member Jon Wensky. “It’s the financially responsible next step in this process.”

For the last few years, School Committee members have agreed that Shrewsbury High School is in need of expansion, echoing those sentiments at the March 13 meeting prior to unanimously approving the SOI.

“[There’s] a trophy case that’s now someone’s office,” School Committee Chair Sandra Fryc said. “You don’t see that very often in a school. To me that was shocking… [Shrewsbury High School] is overcrowded.”

The MSBA, formed in 2004, is funded by one penny of every sales tax. The organization funds up to 80% of eligible costs for school construction projects. Shrewsbury has previously worked with the MSBA to build Sherwood Middle School and the new Maj. Howard W. Beal Elementary School. Most recently, the district collaborated with the organization to coordinate the window replacement at Oak Middle School.

Although Shrewsbury advanced relatively far in the MSBA’s selection process last year, the School Committee revealed in December that the project was ultimately not chosen. The MSBA selected 30% — or 19 of 63 — projects from around the state last year, including six high schools, four middle schools and nine elementary schools.

At the time, the School Committee was disappointed in the result, but still recognized they were fortunate to have had other projects approved the first time, and seemed likely to submit another SOI this year.

“Shrewsbury has been incredibly lucky that every time we had asked, the 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,” School Committee member Lynsey Heffernan said in December.

With the School Committee’s unanimous vote, the Select Board now must approve sending a non-binding SOI.

The deadline to apply for the MSBA’s 2024 cycle is April 12.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the MSBA was formed in 2008; it was formed in 2004.

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