WORCESTER – A year out from the school’s planned opening, city officials held a tour of the new South High on Thursday.
The $209 million project, which began construction two years ago on Apricot Street behind the existing South High School, is tentatively slated to be ready by next fall.
That timeline is still on track despite construction briefly halting earlier this year because of the pandemic, according to City Manager Edward Augustus.
“That’s no small accomplishment,” he said, adding the city didn’t have to halt work per the state’s rules for school construction, but “chose to shut it down” out of caution.
As of Thursday, according to Augustus, the project was about 60 percent complete. A few dozen city and school officials, media members and other visitors were on hand to see the inside of the 360,000-square-foot building, the basic framework of which allowed for a general picture of what the final school will look like.
The first stop on Thursday’s tour was the school’s pod-based classroom arrangements, which groups several rooms around a shared technology space. The format recalls the existing South High’s late ‘70s open concept design, according to Superintendent Maureen Binienda, who started her career at the old school and eventually became its principal.
“With this school, the sense of community is very important, and we wanted to keep that,” she said. “We wanted to put in the walls, but keep the sense of the community.”
The tour also took visitors by the school’s massive gymnasium, media center, auditorium, cafeteria, and several classrooms. It also made a stop at the future location of South High’s Andy’s Attic, a nonprofit that collects clothes for local needy families.
“(It’s gone) from a little place that was just put in the school, to a really big focus of the building,” Binienda said, referring not only to its new, larger space, but also as its separate access door that could allow it to operate during a wider range of hours.
Once the new school is complete, the project’s next phase is the demolition of the existing South High, which will make way for playing fields and a parking lot.
South High is the first of two high school replacements on tap in Worcester; a new Doherty High School is also in the works, after getting preliminary approval from the Massachusetts School Building Authority earlier this year.
The authority is footing part of the cost of both high school projects.
Mayor Joseph Petty on Thursday said he’s also still committed to getting Burncoat High School replaced as well; it’s the city’s top project still awaiting approval from the MSBA.
Scott O’Connell can be reached at Scott.O’[email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ScottOConnellTG
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