By Katina Caraganis

MediaNews

TOWNSEND -- The New England Association of Schools and Colleges will make its once-a-decade visit to North Middlesex Regional High School this month as part of the district's reaccreditation process.

High schools must go through the accreditation process every 10 years with NEASC.

The process includes a self-study, a peer review and an on-site visit.

North Middlesex has had its accreditation put on probation because of its poor physical structure, despite high-quality educational and curriculum opportunities.

Physical-plant grievances the NEASC has outlined include poor air quality, caused in part by an outdated HVAC system; a boiler that is just as outmoded; asbestos in some areas of the school; and woeful science-lab facilities, including nonoperational gas jets, poorly functioning ventilation hoods and overall limited opportunity for students to apply their knowledge in science experiments.

Several of NEASC's grievances have been fixed, including the intercom system and, recently, lighting upgrades.

To get major renovations done or to build a new school takes assistance from the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

The district is working with the MSBA on a new high-school building project. The proposed project would replace the existing high school with a more efficient, 189,520-square-foot facility serving 870 students in grades 9-12.

The school, built in 1970, suffers from mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, school officials say.

School Committee Chairwoman Susan Robbins said she anticipates the NEASC visit to be positive, and is confident the district's partnership with the MSBA will be seen in a positive light.

"They look at a whole range of items, and the only thing we have outstanding is the building issues, which, obviously, we're addressing with the MSBA," she said. "What they look at changes over time. I'm anxious to see what they say. We'll know more after they come out."

Feedback is a good thing, she said, whether you're an individual or a company.

"It's always good to get feedback from people outside of our organization," she said. "Every organization has an opportunity to improve. Getting that feedback from the outside is critical in order to continue to improve."

The site visit usually lasts a couple of days, she said.

Superintendent of Schools Joan Landers was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.

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