Now that the Holyoke City Council has unanimously approved funding a proposed new middle school to replace Peck School, the next step is for the Massachusetts School Building Authority to vote on funding a portion of the costs. That vote is expected to take place on June 21.
On Tuesday, June 6, the City Council voiced their full support for the project, which has been in the planning stages for several years. The total cost of the project is $85,504,592. If the MSBA approves, it would reimburse $46 million of the cost, leaving the City of Holyoke responsible for the remaining $40 million. If approved by the MSBA, demolition of the current Peck school could begin as early as late summer. Construction could begin in February 2024, with the school ready to occupy by fall or winter 2025.
In 2019, Holyoke residents rejected a proposal that would have allowed Holyoke Public Schools to build two new middle schools. After the city’s analysis demonstrated that Holyoke can afford one new middle school building under the existing tax structure, City Councilors voted unanimously on April 6, 2021, in favor of applying to the MSBA for funding to build one middle school for 550 students. A comprehensive planning and public engagement process followed, involving a wide range of stakeholders and extensive financial planning. The process culminated in Tuesday night’s City Council unanimous vote.
“It makes a lot of sense to the Holyoke City Council and to the people who live in this great city that we build a new middle school for all the right reasons: educational, for what is right for the children, for what is right for the families, for what is right for the future of this city,” said City Councilor Joseph McGivern.
Councillor Kevin Jourdain said he, too, strongly supports the proposal to build a single middle school to replace Peck School. He acknowledged that the 65% of voters who rejected the 2019 proposal to build two middle schools played a pivotal role in securing the success of this new proposal, calling them winners because their prior efforts led to this positive outcome. “To the 35 percent of the citizens who actually voted ‘yes’ last time, you too are also a winner, because this process got us to a point where we could accept the mandate—which I think was always unified—which is, we wanted to do a new middle school for the kids.”
After the unanimous City Council vote on Tuesday, HPS Superintendent Anthony Soto expressed his appreciation to everyone involved. “On behalf of the students, families, and staff of Holyoke Public Schools, I am absolutely thrilled that the City Council unanimously voted to support funding for a new middle school building. This vote is an inspiring investment in our children and the future of our city. I want to thank and acknowledge the members of the School Building Committee and everyone else who helped make this outcome possible.”