One month after the Revere City Council voted to reject the design for a new high school at the site of an old dog track, students at Revere High School are angry. They say the toilets in their 48-year-old building don’t flush; the heat barely works, and the ceiling leaks.
They took their grievances to City Hall on Monday, marching from their classrooms after school to demand that a newer, bigger, more functional school be built at the former Wonderland Greyhound Dog Track, which has stood vacant for more than a decade.
“There’s a lot of times where [there are] about 30 kids per class, and there’s not enough desks,” said Matthew Terrell, chair of Revere High School’s student senate, who organized the protest. “In the hallways, you can barely get from each class to another class and ... the building itself is falling apart.”
Revere’s city councilors say they recognize Revere High School needs an overhaul, and discussions about building a new school have been in the works for more than 10 years, according to Patrick Keefe, city council president.
In January 2022, the council approved Wonderland as the site for school construction. In October, the city council overwhelmingly voted in favor of authorizing Mayor Brian Arrigo to seize the Wonderland property by eminent domain. The Wonderland project aligned with Revere Public Schools Superintendent Dianne Kelly’s plan to turn the old high school into a centralized middle school to help address overcrowding.
It surprised many when, in February, the council voted against submitting the design proposal for the Wonderland school to the Massachusetts Building Authority, which helps communities fund new public school buildings. Councilors who opposed the project cited concerns about the cost of construction and have argued a school at Wonderland would mean the city would lose out on revenue from other potential developers.
The vote to reject the design proposal also followed a February lawsuit in which the owners of the Wonderland site sued the city over the taking of the property, claiming it was worth more than the $29.5 million the city paid for it.
“For people to change their mind so late in the game, it’s been disappointing,” Arrigo told the Globe. “For [students] to see that as a call to action is really heartening.”
The City Council met Monday night to further discuss building on the existing Revere High School site, but the future of the project remains unclear. In February, the Massachusetts School Building Authority recommended the city receive an extension until June 30 to submit a design.
City Councilor At-Large Gerry Visconti has proposed the new school be built instead on the existing high school property. In an e-mail to the Globe, he said that approach would be more financially viable because Wonderland could be redeveloped into commercial or mixed-use development, whose tax revenue could help offset the new school’s cost.
“There is no question that building a new high school is going to be expensive, but we have a responsibility to make sure that the cost burden doesn’t end up on our residents’ tax bill,” he wrote.
But others disagree, arguing that building at Wonderland would be cheaper than building at the current high school property. The cost of acquiring the Wonderland site and building the school is an estimated $470 million, while the estimate for building at the existing high school is $535 million, school officials have said.
And Terrell said years of active construction at the existing high school would disrupt learning, create a parking and traffic nightmare, and severely limit student access to athletic fields for more than five years.
Terrell said high schoolers feel their opinions haven’t been valued, and they’re frustrated they haven’t had more input throughout the decision making process.
But they made their feelings plain on Monday as they marched the half-mile from RHS to City Hall, still carrying their backpacks after a day of classes.
Buoyed by honks of solidarity from passing cars on a busy stretch of Broadway, students led chants of “Where is Wonderland?” and carried homemade signs reading “keep your promise” and “queremos una escuela nueva.”
“Even though I’m a senior who is graduating, there are thousands of children who are going to be left behind here who deserve the same amount of success and opportunity that I have had,” said Kathy Trinh, a RHS senior.
Keefe, who voted in favor of building at Wonderland, acknowledged that more student engagement earlier in the decision-making process might have made a difference in the council’s vote.
“Either there wasn’t enough early outreach to the student population, or they just got wind of it too late in the process, but . . . some of their engagement I would have loved,” Keefe said.