By Brian Messenger
METHUEN — City and state officials broke ground yesterday on the long-awaited renovation and expansion of Methuen High School, kicking off what is expected to be three years of construction.
Speaking to about 75 people gathered outside Methuen High, state Treasurer Steven Grossman said he is looking forward to making a return trip in 2014 when the work is complete.
"This is an opportunity for the city and the future generations of Methuen Rangers," said Grossman. "It's a dream realized."
The state is contributing about $65 million to the $100 million project.
Work will begin this month to relocate and replace utilities around the school property, to bring in construction trailers and other temporary facilities, and to install construction fencing.
Demolition work will be underway by the end of August and construction is scheduled to pick up in the fall. All together, the project is expected to last between 30 and 36 months.
Superintendent Judith Scannell told those in attendance yesterday that working through the construction will be a challenge. But Scannell said it will be worth it once students and staff get to spend their time in a modern facility with state-of-the-art technology, labs and equipment.
"The youth of Methuen will be the ultimate beneficiaries of this construction for years to come," said Scannell. "This is why we're here today."
Mayor William Manzi credited the work of the many stakeholders who moved the project forward.
"To have a project like this move this far, this fast, requires a lot of people to do a lot of work," said Manzi. "It's been a long process."
Also present was Katherine Craven, executive director of the Massachusetts School Building Authority. With its open-classroom concept, Craven noted Methuen High was once heralded in the mid 1970s for its futuristic design. She said the renovation will correct the educational problems created by the open concept, upgrading the school into a modern learning space.
Gino Baroni, who is managing the project for the city, said the work will transform Methuen High.
"The students have done well here. The teachers have done well here," said Baroni. "I think with a new platform — new facilities — they'll just excel."
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