The state has agreed to reimburse the city up to 76 percent of the cost of renovating or building a new Consentino School, local school officials said.

Assistant Superintendent Michael Pfifferling recently told the School Committee that if a school cost $100 million to build, for example, the city's share would be about 24 million, with the state paying the rest.

Haverhill plans to replace or fully renovate the 51-year-old Washington Street school, which houses about 800 students in grades five through eight. 

Mayor James Fiorentini has said the Consentino needs a new roof, eight new classrooms to alleviate overcrowding, as well as updated science labs, teacher workrooms and specialized rooms for special education services such as speech lessons. 

Local school officials are in the early stages of a feasibility study intended to determine whether it is better to renovate the Consentino or build an entirely new school. 

Pfifferling said the state School Building Authority invites school districts into each stage of a school building project, and that in late April the SBA invited Haverhill into the feasibility phase. The city must now hire an expert in all phases of public construction, he said.

"The feasibility study will tell us what it would cost to renovate the existing building and what it would cost to build a new school," Pfifferling said. 

Mayor James Fiorentini called the 76 percent reimbursement figure "misleading" and said the real number would likely be a lower percentage because reimbursement is based on a state formula and not the actual cost of construction. He also said the state won't pay for several things related to construction, including design and engineering costs, which would total about $1 million that city taxpayers would have to cover.

More information about the impact of the project on taxpayers will be released once the city determines whether a new building or renovation is the right choice. 

Consentino Principal John Mele said the school is lacking many modern amenities and the kind of learning environment provided by newer schools such as Haverhill's Hunking School. The Hunking was built with the help of state money and opened in December of 2016.

"With so many students requiring specialized services, we need additional space for them and we also need updated science labs, cafeteria, gymnasium, locker rooms and restrooms, new classroom furniture and more," Mele said of the Consentino.

In recent years, Haverhill has been forced to invest significant money into the Consentino building. In February 2016, the school's library was destroyed after a heating unit in a second-floor classroom developed a major leak. A nearly $1 million renovation project required because of that damage began in June of that year was completed several months later, allowing the library to reopen.

 

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