PLEASANT LAKE — Compared to the heavy political, financial and legislative lifting needed for the Cape Cod Tech school building project, hoisting a several-thousand-pound steel beam in place for the traditional topping-off ceremony Thursday was clearly the easy part of the job.
With hundreds of appreciative students, staff, alumni and civic leaders in attendance, a crane lifted the final beam of the new $102 million building, where crews fastened it in place. The painted beam bears the signatures of students and other supporters, and will be on the front of the building near the main entrance.
The steel arrived at the job site on April 1, four months after the groundbreaking, “and so much work has occurred already,” Mass. School Building Authority Executive Director Jack McCarthy told the outdoor assembly. “You have the greatest legislative delegation. They all care about this school,” he added.
Thanks to work by State Rep. Sarah Peake, D–Provincetown, and State Sen. Julian Cyr, D–Truro, the MSBA will be funding more than half of the eligible project costs. Peake and Cyr successfully lobbied for supplemental budget language that better reflected the number of economically disadvantaged students attending the school, boosting state reimbursement by $5.3 million.
“This school, for decades, has been such an integral part of our Mid Cape, our Lower Cape community,” said State Rep. Tim Whalen, R–Brewster, whose predecessor, Democrat Cleon Turner, was also a supporter of the project. “These students are Cape Cod’s future,” he said.
Cyr told the assembly he remembers the conversation with Superintendent of Schools Bob Sanborn when he learned that the expensive school building project would need approval in special elections in every town from Mashpee to Provincetown.
“I said, wow, this is going to be a really heavy lift,” Cyr recalled. The special legislation helped lighten that load, and the overwhelming approval of the building project by voters was a vote of confidence in the school’s mission.
“This is a day that is an investment in all of you,” Cyr told the students at the assembly. “We really see that investment in all of you is critical to our region’s success.”
The ribbon cutting ceremony for the new school is expected in September 2020. Superintendent Sanborn thanked the construction workers, committee members, political leaders and voters for supporting the project, and also called out his predecessors, Tim Carroll and Bill Fisher, “my mentors.”
Sanborn said it has been exciting to see the work progress on the new building, and added that horticulture students will help install some of the landscaping. The school recently hosted “Girls in the Trades,” a celebration of women working in non-traditional careers, one of Cape Tech’s focuses.
“We need more young women to pursue job opportunities in the skilled trades. And we need more employers to hire them,” he said. Brait Builders, the general contractor, has a woman in one of the key leadership positions in the school building project, Sanborn added. He has also run into a number of Cape Tech alumni working on the job, he said.
On the Cape, where communities are struggling to retain year-round residents and young families, vocational education is more important than ever, Sanborn said.
“Cape Cod is at a demographic crossroads,” he noted. Thanks to a “decades-long lack of appreciation” for technical and vocational training, the region now faces a lack of skilled workers in a variety of trades that are critical to the local economy.
Voters’ approval of the school building project was an acknowledgment of the need to invest in sustainability, Sanborn added. While the skills they learn are portable, many Cape Tech graduates can afford to stay on Cape Cod and make a living here, “and our community knows it,” he said.