Newton North High School is a giant, brick monstrosity complete with its own mythology. Locals say it was built by a man who designed prisons, and students are inclined to agree. “There’s not a lot of windows, I mean it’s not a pretty place,” says North school newspaper editor Ben Badler. “It’s just mostly the air—the heating, the ventilation, the air conditioning that’s the biggest concern and it’s the thing that needs to be renovated the most.”
On the issue of renovation, there is no debate. Everyone – students, parents and school officials – agrees: North is in need of a massive $44 million overhaul. “I do believe it’s uncomfortable,” says Newton Schools Superintendent Jeffrey Young. Plans were on track for a 2004 start date for the renovation. But suddenly last fall Newton Mayor David Cohen dropped a bombshell. In order to renovate, the school would have to be closed and students shipped elsewhere, even outside the city.
After a loud public outcry, the plans were put on hold, leaving school administrators in limbo, students in an uncomfortable building and parents like Jay Harney disgruntled. “What is kind of appalling to me is the lack of somebody taking responsibility and saying we made a mistake and let’s regroup,” Harney says. But that may not be so easy, as faith in city officials erodes and education funding becomes as spotty as North’s heat.