By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — The School Department’s 1600 Osgood St. headquarters is closer to the Haverhill city line than it is to the students, teachers and principals who are affected by the decisions made there.
Two years from now, however, that’s going to change. The town plans to construct a new school administration building on the site of the former police station at Main and Osgood streets.
Kang Associates of Sudbury, hired by the town last year, has been working on the design of the new school headquarters, according to Assistant Town Manager Raymond Santilli. The town will advertise for bids Jan. 2, Santilli said.
Construction of the administration building is expected to begin by March 31, he said. Santilli noted that a fierce New England weather could delay the project.
The estimated cost of the building is $2.4 million. Town Meeting approved the money to design it in 2012. Construction was approved by this year’s Town Meeting.
Town Manager Andrew Maylor has noted that the town does not own the current School Department offices but leases them. It makes better financial sense for the town to own its offices than to rent or lease them, he has said.
The present lease for the school offices will expire in June 2015, according to Superintendent Kevin Hutchinson.
“It’s a fabulous location,” Hutchinson said of the former police station. He noted the site is right across the street from Kittredge School. North Andover Middle and Atkinson schools are only a few hundred yards away on the other side of Route 125 and North Andover High is just up the road.
Moving the headquarters to a more central place will enable administrators to be “more responsive” to the schools and the new location will be “by far much better,” he said.
Hutchinson said the new headquarters will probably be completed by the spring of 2015, which should give him and other administrators “plenty of time” to complete the transition.
The Police Department moved out of the old station and into its present quarters at 1475 Osgood St., diagonally across Route 125 from 1600 Osgood St., three years ago. The former station remains vacant and will probably be torn down to make way for the school administration offices.
The huge edifice at 1600 Osgood St. housed Western Electric for many years, at one time employing well over 10,000 workers. Western Electric gave way to AT&T, which in turn was replaced by Lucent. The number of jobs plummeted until there were finally none.
The town leases space at 1600 Osgood St., including the offices of the School and Community Development departments. Various companies also have offices there, but the number of workers at the sprawling plant is a tiny fraction of the labor force that was employed there 30 years ago.