BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
---- — NEWBURYPORT — City and state officials gathered yesterday for a groundbreaking for the Nock-Molin Middle School renovation project, and congratulations and high expectations were the themes of the morning.
“Construction on this project represents another step of the community coming together,” said Mayor Donna Holaday. “We knew we had educational needs, we made a plan and then we created a campaign to inform residents of what had to be done.
“The voters gave us strong support and the work is beginning. We did it.”
Last year, Newburyport voters passed a property tax increase to fund the renovations to the school, as well as the construction of a new Bresnahan Elementary School and a senior center.
City officials say the major renovations at Nock-Molin will ease overcrowding and provide repairs and renovations.
The school, which encompasses about 161,000 square feet, is scheduled to receive new mechanical, lighting and electrical systems. In addition, improvements will be made to roofing, masonry and exterior windows.
Municipal leaders say that cost of the project is $27.9 million, with the state paying about 53 percent reimbursement from the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
Completion date is said to be August 2014 for the 875-student school, which hosts grades 4 through 8.
State Treasurer Steve Grossman said, “One of the greatest investments a community can make is in education. This project will provide new spaces for youngsters, which will result in additional opportunities to learn.”
“This is the proudest moment I’ve had as a state representative,” said state Rep. Mike Costello, D-Newburyport, who has two children at the Nock-Molin complex. “Years ago we changed the funding system and earmarked a small part of taxes to be set aside for schools.
“Today we’re seeing the value — a school that will be improved and upgraded so youngsters will have a great learning experience.”
State Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, D-Newburyport, told several dozen youngsters chosen to attend the ceremony that “A community wants to keep improving so it will be a great place to live, and have quality schools that can prepare youngsters like you.
“This is a very good day for the city and for its students.”
Holaday recognized those in the Port Pride campaign and one of its key leaders, Meghan Kinsey, for its successful effort in persuading voters to pay for renovations at the Nock-Molin, a new Bresnahan Elementary School and a proposed senior community center.
The Nock school was built more than four decades ago, and at least one observer had memories of its earliest days.
“I was at the first groundbreaking, in about 1970,” said a senior construction executive, who was not identified. “I didn’t think I’d see a second, but this will make for a better school and educational experience.”