BILLERICA - Shawsheen Valley Technical High School is planning to add a new Health/Life Sciences Center to the school, in an effort to improve the school’s abilities to educate and train students to pursue careers in related fields.
Superintendent Charles Lyons is the force behind the proposed project.
According to the Shawsheen Tech website, the school “features nineteen vocational-technical programs representing hundreds of jobs that students can pursue. All nineteen programs feature the latest equipment/technology in state-of-the-art shops/labs, and each features career paths that enable a student to either go directly to work or enter the field at a more advanced level through college or a training program.” Lyons hopes that instruction in health/life sciences - a field that he considers to hold much potential and continued expansion - would benefit from this endeavor.
The Health/Life Science Center would incorporate health technology students, dental technician students, lab science technicians, and a biotechnology program, according to Lyons. Currently, Shawsheen Tech trains 26 students in the life science field each year, but generates a waitlist of 20-30 students every year, and must deny outright another 100 applicants. The new center is intended to help handle the growing demand for the program.
Initially, the proposed renovations were expected to cost approximately $3.5 million, though Lyons told the Crier that at the present time the estimation is closer to $4 million. The proposal was put before town managers last February, Lyons said.
Initially, Shawsheen Tech planned on utilizing funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, but the school learned that such a proposal was not covered under the bill.
Lyons indicated that the school was disappointed to learn of this, but that the school made some staffing decisions in order to bring about the intended changes.
The initiative proposes closing down Shawsheen Tech’s diesel program, and building the new wing in its place. Lyons noted that of the three current diesel program instructors, one was scheduled for an imminent retirement, and another was fully certified to instruct in the automotive program, and would be joining that program instead. The diesel program will no longer be offered, and will be eliminated over the next one-and-a-half years as currently enrolled students complete the curriculum. There are currently ten seniors and six juniors in the diesel program, according to Lyons.
Lyons stated that the instructors were valued members of the staff, with many years of experience. “The emphasis was to take a look at the hard labor data for the region and to consolidate a program where job prospects were getting dimmer and replace them with job prospects that the market was going to need,” Lyons added.
The architectural firm of Knight, Bagge and Anderson has been hired for the project. Lyons stated that he hoped to receive confirmation for the project in January. “Our hope is to start construction some time next summer and possibly have this wing completed within six to eight months,” said Lyons. Since the location will not be used for instruction, it will be possible to build while classes continue at the school.
Lyons said that Shawsheen Tech was currently developing a financing plan for the surrounding communities. He told the Crier that the school was hoping to receive as much state funding as possible, in order to limit the financial impact on the local communities.
Lyons added that the school is always looking at obsolete programs and strives to begin new ones that have a labor market need.