Hundreds of signatures now part of new school
On Wednesday afternoon, the last steel beam was carefully lowered into place on top of the new elementary school being built on Minot Avenue as a small crowd clapped.
The beam was not just the last and highest to be added to the building, but carried with it more than 600 signatures from community kids, teachers, staff members, and other Wareham residents and supporters. And the whole event was live-streamed on Facebook.
The “Topping Off Ceremony” celebrated the completion of the building’s frame.
School Building Committee member Rhonda Veugen said that she and the committee had originally hoped to celebrate the event with food trucks and bouncy houses, but, due to the pandemic, changed plans to keep everyone safe, and instead included the community through multiple signings and the live-stream.
A variety of local and state officials spoke while crews continued to work on the building.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kimberly Shaver-Hood described the history of the Minot Forest and Decas Schools, including the generosity of the families who donated to create those buildings, and the future of the new school. She said the new building will be characterized by its “sunlit classrooms, cutting-edge technology, and break out areas for small groups.”
“Thank you for making this dream come true for Wareham children,” Shaver-Hood said.
Jack McCarthy of the Massachusetts School Building Authority, a tax-payer funded organization that put $50 million into the new school, said that Senator Marc Pacheco and Representative Susan Williams-Gifford have been “tireless advocates” for the project.
McCarthy explained that topping off ceremonies are a Scandinavian tradition, meant to appease the forest spirits for the land that was cleared — a lineage particularly appropriate for the home of the youngest Wareham Vikings.
Town Administrator Derek Sullivan thanked everyone who works on the new school, and especially the tax payers who approved an operational override to fund the school and “invest in the future.” He also noted that the town’s high bond rating allowed the town to secure low-interest loans which will save the town about a million dollars each year below original estimates.
Pacheco said that the school is funded in part by everyone in the state, as the MSBA is funded by one penny of the sales tax.
“It will be a building of knowledge that is developed here that will impact the future of this town, this region, the Commonwealth, the United States, and the world going forward,” Pacheco said. “Why would that happen? Because we’re investing in young people. We’re investing in their education. When we do that, we’re investing in our collective future.”
Selectmen Peter Teitelbaum, himself an alumni of the former Minot Forest School, said that the passage of the tax override is a testament to the hard work of everyone involved in the project and the worthiness of the proposal. He noted that especially because the town is largely older and without much extra money, the voters’ willingness to pay more in taxes shows Wareham’s dedication to the “common good” ahead of their own needs.
“How great is it to drive by and see this building take shape?” School Committee member Joyce Bacchiocchi said, noting that watching a new elementary school being built is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Veugen thanked everyone involved, including the communication subcommittee, and urged the public to follow the school’s progress online at www.warehamelementaryschool.org or the Wareham Elementary School Facebook page.