By Samantha Allen
WESTFORD -- In the back of Nashoba Valley Technical High School, and just beyond the baseball diamond, is a large mound of dirt some 30 feet high with green grass already sprouting out of it.
Construction crews created that pile of earth during their ongoing $2.5 million project to build the school a new state-of-the-art sports center, with brand-new fields for various sports and room for a concession stand. The project launched in late May.
The now ripped-up grounds to the north of the technical school will soon serve as the home for a brand-new six-lane running track as well as a football, softball, soccer and joint boys' and girls' lacrosse field. And near the front of the school, tennis courts will be put in. Crews recently worked to rip up about 200 trees in that area there.
Superintendent Judith Klimkiewicz says all of this work will be a great new addition for students and it won't cost taxpayers a dime. Klimkiewicz said the town of Ayer joining the seven-community regional school district officially this fiscal year, starting in July, brought in new money which made this multi-million dollar project possible. She said money was left over from a previous construction project, and construction developer Quirk donated bleachers to the project.
But without Ayer's contributions, Klimkiewicz said the district's towns would have had to authorize the expenditures at their annual Town Meetings.
"Passing that would almost be impossible during these tight fiscal times," she said. "We decided we could construct our facilities with the monies that were nicely contributed by Ayer."
Ayer has been sending students on a tuition basis since 1969.
The town has averaged about 60 students attending Nashoba per year, out of a population of about 750.
Klimkiewicz said Ayer wins because it no longer has to pay a state-mandated rate to send students to Nashoba, and now has representation at the School Committee table.
And the entire district and its students win, because the new fields were a necessity, she said.
"They were in rough shape," said Donald Ayer, a Chelmsford representative on the School Committee for six years. "We were constantly spending money to repair the fields."
Ayer said the new synthetic turf that will be placed on the main fields will cut down on costs for the future and the new fields will give student teams a competitive edge. Track teams will also no longer have to run alongside Route 110, which was not safe, he said.
"It definitely needed it," Ayer said. "(The students) had grass fields staff were constantly working on and they never had tennis courts. Now we can have tennis and we can get additional teams into the leagues."
Facilities manager Tim McDonald said work in the rear of the school is expected to wrap up by Columbus Day.
The tennis courts should be completed by the spring.
McDonald believes the ongoing work during the school year will be of no disruption to students and may even pique their interest.
Looking over at some backhoes and ram hoes moving ledge and piles of dirt on Tuesday, he pointed to one area where his staff had to raise the grounds 18 feet. McDonald is a graduate of the school and studied in the plumbing and heating department. He said this could be an interesting project for teens to follow.
"It's a vocational school and if these kids are going into the field," he said, "it's nice for them to actually be able to see what's going on."
Klimkiewicz pointed out there are many exciting things coming up this school year at the high school, including plans to introduce a new engineering academy, housed within the school walls. Students will also work in September to modify an old barn on-site that will be converted into a new dance and arts studio.
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