Town takes ownership of ‘substantially complete’ new school
The town now officially owns the Wareham Elementary School, which was declared to be substantially complete on Nov. 5.
That means that work on the building is 99 percent done.
While crews worked on paving one of the final sections of the school’s driveway, Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Shaver-Hood, School Committee member Geoff Swett, Municipal Maintenace head Dave Menard, and project lead Mark Adrean took a tour of the building.
The school looks almost ready for students to move in, with colorful classrooms, shining kitchen equipment and small climbing walls installed in the gym.
Students are set to start classes at the building, located on Minot Avenue, after they return from winter break in January.
Before then, Shaver-Hood said, the district will be bringing teachers and other members of the school community in for tours. Before winter break, all of the pre-k through fourth grade students will visit the building to get a tour and see where their new classroom will be.
An open house at which community members can explore the school is in the works.
While the building is large, Shaver-Hood explained that each grade has its own wing. In the center of the school are the spaces shared by all the grades: the cafetorium, gym, and the Innovation Hub.
The Innovation Hub is composed of a number of light-filled rooms with different tools for teachers and students.
“We have technology, we have the arts, and we have STEAM,” said Shaver-Hood. STEAM stands for “science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.”
The art room has a kiln, and an adjacent room includes access to a rooftop balcony for outdoor learning.
“This is probably the most technologically-advanced elementary school in the state,” said Swett. The school’s tech includes 86-inch touch-screen computers in all the classrooms, which can be raised and lowered for access by even the smallest students. Students will have access to a television studio. And the cafetorium will be fitted with a high-quality projector.
The visual details that committee members have discussed for years are now in place: the lobby floor features a map of Wareham, and the Innovation Hub has an illustration of the solar system that even includes Pluto.
Even with these amenities, the school is currently about $1 million under budget, Shaver-Hood said.
The new elementary school will end up costing taxpayers less than half of what was originally estimated in 2018: only 38 cents per $1,000 of assessed home value, rather than 82 cents.
That means the average single-family homeowner will pay $116.20 toward the school annually, rather than $211.61, as was first estimated. (The value of the average family home in Wareham has increased significantly since 2018, from $258,143 to $304,950.)
When the building opens, Shaver-Hood said she estimates that 930 students will be in attendance.
“This is going to draw more people to Wareham,” said Menard.