MANCHESTER — The Board of School Committee on Monday gave preliminary approval to spend $14.6 million on school renovations in the next budget year, including $8.7 million for the Manchester School of Technology.
The $8.7 million would be used to convert MST into a high school with the same amenities as the district’s other three high schools, such as a gym, cafeteria and library. Another $5.8 million would be used to eliminate the “open concept” classrooms at Beech Street and Webster elementary schools.
The funds would come from a bond issued in the 2016 fiscal year.The vote on the new projects comes as the budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 was just finalized; no funding for school building projects was included in that budget.
Proponents of the funding argued that it was important for the board to give the OK to move on the projects because much of the construction would take place next summer, preceded by architectural work over the coming school year.
Mayor Ted Gatsas, who has been a strong proponent of the vocational-based MST, was sharply critical of spending so much money on the school.
“We have Memorial (high school) across the street. If we can’t use that gym for 400 students ... can somebody tell me how that makes sense,” Gatsas said.
But Ward 10 board member John Avard, who chairs the Buildings and Sites Committee, said the district couldn’t indefinitely seek waivers from the state for the deficiencies at MST.
“When MST was brought forward (as a four-year high school), I said we were rushing it,” he said. “Now we have to fix the building. We’re going to be building this up so the students have all the things other students have, so they’re not going to be short-changed.”
The board initially voted to approve funding for the projects as part of its consent agenda. Gatsas made a motion to reconsider the vote, but it was rejected by the board 11-3.