Savana Trinity is worried about the state of Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School.
The building has overloaded electrical circuits, preventing students like her from charging their Chromebooks and using electronic microscopes and machinery for shop classes. Trinity and her friends are forced to find different routes to class as plumbers close down hallways due to leaky pipes. The 46-year-old building is showing signs of deterioration, and Trinity said it is negatively affecting the learning environment.
“Tri-County is an important part in getting kids out of the workforce,” Trinity said. “We need more plumbers, carpenters, Tri-County helps expedite the number of people that are out in the workforce.”
On Oct. 24, residents in 11 towns will vote to decide if a new $286 million school should be built. The election will occur in North Attleborough Franklin, Medfield, Medway, Millis, Norfolk, Plainville, Seekonk, Sherborn, Walpole and Wrentham. If a majority of voters say yes, the measure will be approved. Polls will open at 12 p.m. and will close at 8 p.m.
Some North Attleborough voters share Trinity’s concerns, and many plan to vote in favor of the new school. Rachel Boucher, who graduated from Tri-County in 1993, said the future of those wanting to enlist in a trade depends on the school’s success. Boucher said her experience at Tri-County was positive, but acknowledged that the technology has grown old and needs to be updated for today’s students.
“Revitalizing the school is a must,” Boucher said. “The shops definitely need business owners to come in and show the new technology and techniques on what makes them successful.”
Even those who have not attended Tri-County support the new school. Ryan Benharris said the students deserve a building that can provide the tools for success. Despite not attending Tri-County, Benharris considers the school a pillar of North Attleborough.
“Prior generations have benefited from it and they should clearly be able to understand why future generations should get the same opportunities they did.” Benharris said. “I’m a strong supporter of doing whatever it takes to get the funding that it needs.”
Before deciding on a new building, the Tri-County School Committee and School Building Committee debated whether the school could be renovated instead. A feasibility study found that the cost to remodel the school was identical to the cost of a new building. The study also found that renovations and construction would disrupt classes. Tri-County School Business Administrator Daniel Haynes said these were the deciding factors in choosing to construct a new school
“The new construction really stood out,” Haynes said. “Educating students in a building being renovated, especially vocational education students, is extremely difficult. You would still have a building that was 50 years old.”
While voters support a new building, some town officials have raised concerns over how the community will pay for its construction. Town Manager Michael Borg said the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) has agreed to reimburse all the towns $82 million for the project.
The remaining $200 million for the project and $100 million in interest on a 30-year bond will have to be paid by the 11 towns that send students to Tri-County. According to Borg, North Attleborough is likely to pay $6.6 million a year for 30 years, based on the number of students from the town that are enrolled at Tri-County—30% of the total student body. The payments are a combination of construction costs and tuition and would come from the town’s general fund.
Borg added that payments could increase if more teens from North Attleborough are enrolled at Tri-County.
“This is something that weighs heavily on myself and the administration moving forward,” Borg said. “This will impact our budget. This would be somewhere in the area of $6.6 million based on our current enrollment.”
Despite the potential impacts on the town’s budget, some voters still say the new school is worth the investment. William Mackie, the owner of Mackie’s restaurant and 1991 graduate of Tri-County, said the students’ future depends on constructing a new school. He added that if the school could find an opportunity for students to assist with completing a new school, it would help build morale.
“I’m surprised that it’s in such bad shape,” Mackie said. “Can you imagine the sense of pride and enthusiasm it would create with the students and society?”