Almost a decade in the planning, a new Minuteman High School finally got underway at a well-attended groundbreaking ceremony on June 14. The event took place where the front door of the new building will go, at the western edge of the district-owned property in Lincoln, a few hundred yards from the existing school in Lexington.
The $145 million project cleared its last hurdle last September with a district-wide vote. The new school is expected to open in September 2019, after which the old building will be demolished and new athletic fields will be built.
“An investment in education pays the best interest,” said Jack McCarthy, executive director of the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), quoting Benjamin Franklin. The project has been in the MSBA planning process longer than almost any other project in the state, spanning the tenure of several state treasurers, he noted.
“This project is like Job—it went through every trial imaginable… and we were spit out of the whale on September 20″ when the project was approved last year in the district-wide vote, McCarthy remarked. The MSBA is contributing more than $44 million of the school’s cost. To secure project approval, the district also had to revise its governance structure and membership, scale back student enrollment, and change state regulations so non-members contribute to capital costs.
“This project nearly failed several times,” said Minuteman School Committee chair Jeffrey Stulin of Needham. Speaking directly to Minuteman students in reference to how he felt at the project’s beginnings, he said, ” I expect that some time in the future, you too will become involved in an idea of importance where you’re overwhelmed and in over your head… but you have no chance of success if you don’t even try. You have to have courage to accept that you may fail.”
Minuteman Superintendent Edward Bouquillon, a Lincoln resident, said he first realized that the existing building needed significant repair or replacement soon after he accepted the job as superintendent in 2007, thus starting the decade-long journey to win voter approval and state funding. At times emotional, he thanked an array of people and organization, including his wife Diana.
Bouquillon urged officials not to tinker with the existing model for career vocational-technical education. “Now is not the time to shave off the best aspects of high-quality career and vocational technical education and try to graft it onto a traditional high school schedule,” he said. “All that will do is weaken our system in Massachusetts.”
He also urged the state legislature to increase funding for similar projects. “MSBA needs another penny of the sales tax to get all the vocational technical schools rebuilt and to build new ones to fill the skills gap,” he said. Currently, MSBA is funded by 16 percent (one penny) of the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax.
Guests at the groundbreaking included a host of officials from the state and district towns as well as education officials, members of Minuteman’s business-led program advisory committees, and a representative from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.
There were no Lincoln officials in attendance, however. The town’s residents voted to withdraw from the Minuteman district in early 2016, a move that takes effect on July 1. At that point, the district will go from 16 towns to 10: Acton, Arlington, Belmont, Bolton, Concord, Dover, Lancaster, Lexington, Needham, and Stow.
The new school is designed for 628 students who will spend their Minuteman “careers” in one of two “career academies”: a Life Sciences and Services Academy, and an Engineering, Construction and Trades Academy. The curriculum’s 16 career and technical education programs will include two new ones: Multimedia Engineering (Technical Theatre) and Advanced Manufacturing.
Gilbane Building Co. is the construction manager for the project and Kaestle Boos Associates is the architect. Skanska USA Building serves as Minuteman’s project manager.