Mass. Board To Pay 95% of Cost of Replacing Chelsea Schools

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Massachusetts officials have agreed to pay 95 percent of the cost of replacing virtually all of the dilapidated school buildings in Chelsea, the troubled city whose schools are being managed by Boston University.

The state board of education agreed last month to make an exception to its usual 90 percent limit for school costs because of Chelsea's unusual plight.

The city is home to some of the oldest school facilities in Massachusetts. Two of Chelsea's five school buildings are more than 100 years old, and two are more than 80 years old.

Although the need for new schools has been a topic in Chelsea since the late 1950's, fiscal woes and political turmoil have prevented the city from addressing the problem.

In 1991, the city was declared financially insolvent, and the state appointed a receiver to manage its affairs.

Under the plans approved by the board of education, the city will issue bonds for the total amount of the project and will be reimbursed by the state for 95 percent of the cost, which amounts to $177.5 million when interest is included.

School, Community Complex

The $92 million construction project includes plans for an "education-community complex'' that will include schools and space for such community services as a senior-citizens' center and a cable-television office, according to Earl Adreani, the administrative assistant to the Chelsea superintendent.

"We hope it will be a real center of activity,'' Mr. Adreani said.

The complex will be made up of a high school with a capacity of 1,500 students and another building that will house six separate schools, each serving 400 students in grades 1-8.

The new complex will have roughly 60 percent more space than the city's current school buildings.

Besides classrooms, the complex will include tennis courts, gymnasiums, and an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Currently, Chelsea students use the city's Y.M.C.A. for physical education.

The only existing facility that will continue to be used will be the Shurtleff School, which will be renovated to serve 800 pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students, Mr. Adreani said.

The other buildings will be declared surplus and revert back to the city's control, he added.

Construction is expected to start next June and last two years.

The project also is expected to generate jobs for residents of Chelsea, which has one of the highest poverty rates in the state.

Vol. 12, Issue 28

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