Voters in 10 of 11 Massachusetts towns reject plan for new Whittier Tech

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HAVERHILL – A proposal to build a new Whittier Tech regional school in Haverhill was rejected by 10 of the 11 Massachusetts communities it serves.

Voters in Amesbury, Georgetown, Groveland, Ipswich, Merrimac, Newbury, Newburyport, Rowley, Salisbury and West Newbury all voted against the plan Tuesday. The only community to vote in favor was Haverhill.

“College is not for everybody and I think a trade school would be good,” said Haverhill resident Diane Roe.

The new school would have cost about $444 million and communities in the district would have been responsible for 40 percent of the cost. Leaders said a new building is needed to replace the current on from 1973 and keep up with a 21st century workforce.

“I think that provides a really clear signal that we need to collaborate as a community and look and find some other alternatives,” said Lisa Medina Smith, a Newburyport resident in charge of Reimagine Whittier who advocated for a “no” vote on the rebuild plan. She said she doesn’t oppose building a new school. Rather, she said she was against the price tag, funding structure and lack of input from all the towns. “There’s certainly an opportunity to either revisit the school through renovations, look at a different plan in terms of rebuilding.”

“It is clear that residents in 10 of our 11 sending communities are not in favor of the current proposal to construct a new Whittier Tech,” said Superintendent Maureen Lynch in a statement. “Whittier Tech’s vision, as a public school serving our cities and towns in a multitude of ways, is to position our students and adult learners for the best chance of success, whatever their chosen profession, and to become a strong foundation for our local skilled workforce. We will take time to reevaluate how we can best meet the needs of Whittier Tech.”

Data shows college enrollment is down 4% and interest in various trades have increased in recent years. Whittier currently has more than 1,200 students, 22 different programs and serves 11 communities.

“Plumbers, electricians, carpenters, everybody’s dying for them,” said one woman.

“It’s a good school, I loved Whittier and they have great programs,” said Brooke Bailey, who graduated from the school in 2022. She said she’s concerned because the state and federal funds for the plan are now likely lost. “It will probably be a really long time before it comes up again.”

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