Though the appeal of the high school project remains at Superior Court, Wilmington officials are preparing for a major first step towards making the project a reality as Superintendent of Schools Joanne Benton announced Wednesday the gymnasium will be demolished in February.
Board of Selectmen chairman Mike Newhouse said he and his fellow selectmen will discuss the gym demolition in executive session during Monday’s meeting. Once regular business begins, members will then hold a public discussion and a vote that would mean the town is officially going forward with the demolition.
“The ultimate goal is to deliver what the residents have appropriated the money for and have supported,” said Newhouse. “And that’s to have a completed state of the art, 21st century high school. That being the ultimate goal, every step we take towards that is exciting. Unfortunately, dealing with these appeals has added a level of frustration to the project that otherwise wouldn’t exist.”
The demolition will impact several areas. The final basketball game of the season will be held at Burlington High School rather than at home as scheduled. In addition, this spring’s Annual Town Meeting will be held at Wilmington Middle School.
From an educational standpoint, Benton said the district is converting a classroom inside the high school into a room that will be used for physical education courses. Activities such as yoga will be used to replace curriculum that would have taken place inside the gym.
“We are going to be very creative in the physical fitness piece of our program,” said Benton. “I think that time is money. Every day we wait to start construction could possibly be another class of students that misses out on a new high school. I’m willing to take the chance to move forward.
Another impact the demolition will have is on the town’s annual Fourth of July festivities. Each year, the carnival is set up on the high school property, which will likely not be possible this year.
Fourth of July Committee chairman Scott Garrant said the committee was prepared that this summer’s celebration might need to be changed. He won’t, however, know exactly what the set up will look like until sometime in February.
“It certainly impact our plans, but it’s not an unexpected impact,” said Garrant. “With the appeals, there was the potential that there would be a delay in when we would have to make changes to our plans, but we weren’t counting on that. I don’t anticipate there not being a carnival. That is certainly one of the details we’re working to finalize.”
Pending Monday’s approval by the Board of Selectmen, the demolition would take place over the school’s February vacation, which officially begins on Monday, February 18.
Benton said the prospect of beginning construction is an exciting one for her and other town officials.
“I want to be the first one to knock something down in that gym,” joked Benton. “Because that is a sign that we’re moving forward and completing the promise that we made to the community, and it means we’re going to be building a new high school.”