New Wareham Elementary School to open in October
The new Wareham Elementary School, currently in progress on Minot Avenue, will welcome students on October 12 — months ahead of schedule.
The school was initially set to open to students in January 2022, after the winter vacation.
At a June 17 meeting, School Committee and School Building Committee member Geoff Swett announced that the move-in date had been moved up because construction is so ahead of schedule.
Swett said construction is set to be substantially complete as of September 15, making an October move-in realistic. Students are set to go to the new school after the three-day Columbus Day weekend.
The new school will host all Wareham students from pre-k through fourth grade, and will be led by current Decas School Principal Bethany Chandler and Minot Forest Principal Joan Seamans.
Swett also reported that the project has not used the bulk of its contingency funds, and that the school will end up costing taxpayers only about half of what was originally estimated.
A debt exclusion to temporarily raise taxes to pay for the new school was approved by voters in 2018.
Original estimates put the tax increase at 82 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value over a 15-year period — but the actual cost per taxpayer works out 36 cents, less than half of the original estimate.
“We were both lucky and good, with respect to how much this project cost. We were lucky because interest rates plummeted,” said Swett, who noted that the state will be reimbursing the town for 75 percent of the cost of the school. “We were good, in the sense that when the time came to make some big decisions, we made the right ones. We would not have made the right ones if the superintendent hadn’t gone along with the recommendations of the project manager.”
Swett praised Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Shaver-Hood for approving a January opening date, which increased the number of bidders interested in the school, and made sure those bidders were competitive. Most towns look to have new schools complete for the first day of school in September.
In August 2020, Project Manager Chad Crittendon reported that the town’s share of the cost would be $27.2 million — $11.5 million dollars less than the $38.6 million approved by voters.
Construction has consistently been ahead of schedule and under budget since work began in early 2020. Crews were able to safely work through most of the pandemic.
Although it wasn’t possible to hold a traditional ground-breaking ceremony, officials found a different way to get the community involved in the construction.
In June 2020, everyone in town was invited to sign the last steel beam to be installed at the school. More than 600 signatures were collected, and officials held a small live-streamed ceremony as the beam was carefully placed atop the school.
Since then, construction has sped along. Crews are now working on the interior details of the building.