Voters approve new $286 million Tri-County School

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Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School. File photo
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Residents in 11 towns voted to approve the construction of a new Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School building.

Voters in North Attleborough, Franklin, Medfield, Medway, Millis, Norfolk, Plainville, Seekonk, Sherborn, Walpole and Wrentham went to the polls on Oct. 24 to decide on whether a $286 million building should replace the old Tri-County, now 46 years old. A total of 8,593 voters participated in the election, with 5,364 voting in favor of constructing a new building and 3,229 voting against it. In North Attleborough, 538 voted yes for the project, and 368 voted no.

Plans call for shovels to hit the ground in the summer of 2024 with an anticipated opening in time for the 2026-27 academic year.

“I am overjoyed by the outcome of the special election,” Superintendent Dr. Karen Maguire said. “This opportunity for our students and vocational technical education in this area would not have been remotely possible without the effort and support of countless people, too many to name. Our hashtag throughout this process was Save the Trades and last night as the results trickled in, I felt as though we were doing just that while providing a well-rounded education to the students who walk our halls.”

Stu Britton, an election warden, said his estimated turnout would be 900 voters from North Attleborough. He said it was unsurprising turnout was low, as only one item was be voted on.

“We always could use better communication to get the vote out,” Britton said. “The last time we had a vote on single ballot issues, it was around 800 to 900 votes cast, so this was expected.”

The Tri-County Schoo has been showing signs of deterioration after years of use, with open walls, ceiling tiles falling off, leaky pipes, and overloaded electrical circuits preventing students from using machinery or learning devices.

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.

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 be paid by the 11 towns that send students to Tri-County. 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 be paid for through the town’s general fund.

State Rep. Adam Scanlon (D-North Attleborough) said the approval of the question to build a new school should be celebrated as a victory for vocational school students. Scanlon, who had been trying to raise support for the measure in the weeks leading up to the election, said the new building will help students have a positive learning experience and provide them with the tools they need when they graduate.

“I’m very pleased a strong majority of people today said we value vocational education,” Scanlon said. “As the son of an alumnus of Tri-County who went on to build his own masonry business, I stand proud with our voters today who believe in creating pathways to secure the American dream.”