The Herald News
FALL RIVER — With Swansea’s recent Town Meeting voting unanimously to approve their share of the project to construct a new building for Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School, all four sending communities have signed off on the project ahead of the May 20 deadline to do so.
“On May 21, when everyone had gone through and approved, it was kind of a surreal feeling,” said Dr. Elvio Ferreira, the school’s superintendent.
The $293 million project would construct a new building for Diman on the site of the current school’s athletic fields, then demolish the current building.
Somerset Town Meeting and the Fall River City Council both signed off on the project in February, without reaching decisions about whether to fund their shares of the project through increased property taxes. In early May, Westport Town Meeting voters rejected a warrant article that called for a debt exclusion to raise property taxes to pay for the town’s share of the project, but approved the project overall. Each vote of approval was either unanimous or nearly full approval.
“Having a relatively unanimous vote in most of our sending communities was really a powerful message that folks, taxpayers and residents sent forth with the need for a new Diman and what we’ll be able to do for the next 50 years moving forward,” Ferreira said.
The next step is to finalize their exact plans for what the new building will look like, Ferreira said. They released a design last fall that calls for a four story building that would increase the school’s square footage by more than 50%. Not much is likely to change, but Ferreira said they want to be positive that the plan would see things like shops and athletic fields in the most optimal locations.
“We’re gonna take the next five to six months to finalize that to make sure where we’re putting things really makes sense,” he said.
Those final plans will then be submitted to the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which works with school districts to plan and fund major projects, for approval.
The MSBA has agreed to reimburse up to 79.77% of eligible costs for the new building. This will likely result in 51% of the total cost, or approximately $145.7 million, being reimbursed.
This fall, Ferreira said, they will work on ironing out details needed to start construction, like finding temporary office space, starting the process of hooking up new utility lines and determining traffic patterns. Construction will likely not impact traffic flow for students arriving at the school, as they plan to bring construction vehicles in from Locus Street, not Stonehaven Road.
“The idea and the planning has always been to be the least invasive process as we can,” he said.
Actual construction is on track to begin in the spring of 2023. The new building should be open to students in 2026, then the new fields can be completed and the old building demolished in 2027, Ferreira said.
“It’s gonna be a really, really tight window as far as the scheduling of everything,” he said. “It’ll be a little hectic… but it’ll all be worth it.”