NEW BEDFORD — A new elementary school building proposed by New Bedford officials would be built in the North End to replace the aging Ashley and Swift schools.

Both the Charles S. Ashley and Jireh Swift elementary schools are over a century old, and both have experienced building issues that resulted in students missing at least one day this academic year.

Swift School was built in 1909 and Ashley School in 1922.

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The city's school committee voted Feb. 13 to submit statements of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority about the proposal for a new school, according to a release from Mayor Jon Mitchell's office.

On Feb. 23, the New Bedford City Council approved the measure, which the mayor's office said is the first step in showing local support to the state building authority.

"Schools are expensive to build — and we've got older schools in the city, and we've been rebuilding schools," Mitchell told WBSM's Tim Weisberg in his weekly radio appearance Wednesday.

He went on to note that the city can expect to be reimbursed for the cost of the project through a state School Building Authority program.

"We've done a number of them in the South End," the mayor said, listing recently rebuilt or ongoing school projects like the new Jacobs School, the Sea Lab expansion, and a project to combine DeValles and Congdon schools.

"Now we're going to move on to the North End," he added.

In a release, Mitchell stated that learning environment quality is a major factor in academic achievement for students.

"That is why we have made the modernization of New Bedford school facilities a high priority," he noted. "We want to make sure future generations of students have a school that meets their needs."

Superintendent Thomas Anderson noted that Ashley and Swift Schools are located just about 1.4 miles from each other.

"Their combined enrollments for the 2019-20 school year was 433 students," he noted. "A consolidation makes sense educationally and is part of our master plan to replace all the century-old buildings while also upgrading schools built in the 1960s and 1970s."

Andrew O’Leary, Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations, said that the submission "incurs no financial obligation on the part of the city."

But if the project is approved by the school building authority, he added, the city will need to fund a feasibility study, likely in fiscal year 2025.

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