Wareham schools will not pursue preschool program expansion at Decas School
Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Shaver-Hood encouraged the School Committee not to pursue plans to expand the district’s preschool program into newly available space at the Decas School.
The new preschool classes had been proposed as a potential source of additional revenue for the district.
Although the preschool plans wouldn’t have precluded using the rest of the building as a community center — an idea proposed and championed by a group of community activists — the preschool proposal was met with resistance from some of those with preexisting ideas about what a multigenerational community center housed at the Decas School should look like.
“As we explored this, it was always our goal to work in collaboration with the community, to provide a service and an opportunity to further serve our Wareham children and our community,” Shaver-Hood said during the School Committee’s Jan. 20 meeting. “Due to the present circumstances, this is not possible, which leads to the school (district) officially leaving the Decas building.”
She said the district was “in the final stages” of removing supplies and equipment from the Decas School.
School Committee member Geoff Swett noted that the preschool plans had been proposed as a revenue source at a time when the district could use the influx of cash.
The school’s budget currently includes $2 million in federal covid relief funds. The school will have an equal amount of those funds next year — but in the 2024 Fiscal Year, those funds will dry up, leaving the district with a potential $2 million deficit.
Shaver-Hood did not address the long-term budget concerns, but she did note that another expected pitfall of the school district permanently leaving the Decas School was no longer an issue.
Previously, officials believed that if the Decas School was no longer being used by the school district, the town would have to pay back the $800,000 contributed by the state for the school’s new boilers and roof repairs.
Shaver-Hood noted that because the Wareham Elementary School project came in several million dollars under budget, the state had already taken the $800,000 it was owed from the surplus reimbursement allowance.
The Massachusetts School Building Authority will be reimbursing the district for about 75 percent of the eligible project costs of building the new Wareham Elementary School.
“So for the impact on the taxpayers, it’s really zero,” Swett summarized, “because we came in under budget.”
Shaver-Hood confirmed his conclusion and emphasized the district’s gratitude toward Wareham residents.
“We thank the community for their help and support in building the new school for our elementary children, and we look forward to serving the children in the best way we can,” Shaver-Hood said.