Wareham officials host forum on $90 million school ahead of Oct. 22 vote

Oct 13, 2018

Wareham Public Schools officials made their case for a proposed $90 million elementary school on Saturday morning ahead of an important vote on the issue.

The forum at the Wareham Free Library was sponsored by the Wareham School Building Committee and featured designers and builders speaking about the project. About 25 people attended, curious to find out more about the proposal. A second community forum is scheduled for Oct. 15 at 6 p.m. in the middle school auditorium.

Voters at the Oct. 22 Town Meeting will be asked to place a question on the local ballot in the Nov. 6 general election. If approved, Wareham voters will be asked to approve spending an estimated $40 million to build and equip a new consolidated elementary school to replace the Decas and Minot Forest elementary schools.

Tentatively named the Decas School at Minot Forest, the new school would be built at the site of the current Minot Forest School. The 159,000-square-foot, three-story building would be designed to educate 1,020 students from kindergarten through Grade 4. The new school would cost a total of $90 million. With the state committed to contributing $50 million, the $40 million represents the town’s share.

Funding the building would raise property taxes via a “debt exclusion” for 20 years. The additional tax is an estimated 82 cents per $1,000 of home valuation. To calculate a tax increase for an individual property, click on this link.

On Saturday, Chad Crittenden of PMA Consultants, the firm hired to help guide the design process, and Dennis Daly of Mount Vernon Group Architects, went over the project’s background and fielded questions on technology, security and funding the project.

Some were concerned the project’s estimated $90 million would be higher than anticipated. Crittenden said that due to state regulations, the $90 million estimate cannot increase. In fact, Crittenden explained that of the total estimated cost, $4 million is built in as a contingency, meaning the overall cost of the project may be lower. If the debt exclusion passes in November, the state will review the project and lock in a price on Dec. 12.

On security, Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Shaver-Hood said the new school design has several measures with student safety in mind. She noted the current Minot School building lacks security measures due to its open design.

Crittenden said the new school would have active and passive security measures, including two sets of locked doors designed to keep intruders out as well as fortified glass. Crittenden said he was unable to go into much detail on other security measures due to safety.

School Building Committee member and former School Committee member Geoff Swett asked why the state’s reimbursement for the new school is significantly lower than what it was when the middle school was built. At the time, the town was reimbursed 89 percent of the costs. Officials estimate roughly 75 percent of the new school’s construction would be reimbursed.

Crittenden explained the state changed its reimbursement formula after the construction of Newton North High School. That $200 million building cost two and half times more than the original estimate.

“No district today is going to get 89 percent,” said Crittenden.

For more information on the proposed school visit www.newschool.warehamps.org.

Town Meeting is scheduled for Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. in the Wareham High School auditorium. All registered voters may participate.

For more information on the school, check out Wareham Week Today’s question and answer guide by clicking here.