Superintendent of Everett Public Schools Frederick Foresteire said this week that the district is hoping to move back into the former Devens School at the beginning of February, once renovations of the schools are completed.
The Devens Schools had been declared a surplus school building by the city a decade ago, and remained unused by the city during the majority of that time.
When the city finally moved to sell the building, the current owner won a bid to redevelop the building, as an assisted living complex for seniors. However, the downturn in real estate and the impact on the assisted living market caused the developer to rethink their plans.
“The developer is renovating the school to our specifications and he was originally aiming for January 1 completion date, but now it looks like the first of February or around then,” explained Foreseteire.
The school department will lease the renovated building at a cost of $429,742 per year, once the renovations are completed.
“What has happened for us is that our enrollment is just exploding, that’s the only way to put it. Nobody is growing faster in school population, than Everett public schools, at the same time a larger number of our youngsters are being referred to outside educational placements,” added the superintendent. “What we want to do is find a way to bring those students back into the district, save money on the tuitions and use that funding to pay for our use of the building and hire the teachers, specialists and supplies that the school will need to operate.”
Special needs placements are known to be budget busters for public school districts, especially those in urban settings like Everett. By creating an in-district placement for special needs students, the city can better monitor the success of its students in those programs and contain costs for those programs at the same time.
Despite being in the middle of the school year, Superintendent Foresteire said that the current plan is to move into the renovated school as soon as it is ready, bring back whatever students it can for the remainder of the year and then bring back the remaining out of district placements for the start of next school year.
“The advantage for us is that they’re doing a lot of work on that building, they’ve gutted the building, they’re replacing windows, the roof and renovating all of the classrooms for us,” added Foresteire.
The net result is that the school district will get a fully renovated and program ready building, without the cost of a major school renovation project and without the responsibility of maintaining the building going forward.