Wareham voters give decisive ‘yes’ to $90 million elementary school

Nov 7, 2018

There’s going to be a new school in Wareham. 

Voters strongly supported a $90 million consolidated elementary school on Election Day when the project passed its final funding hurdle.

School officials celebrated the vote.

“This will be an investment in not only our children, but also our town,” said School Committee Chair Joyce Bacchiocchi. 

Residents approved a $40 million “debt exclusion” to construct and equip the school. The $40 million represents the town’s share of the project with the state committed to funding $50 million. 

The debt exclusion will raise property taxes above the Proposition 2-1/2 limits by the amount required to pay off the $40 million over a period of 20 years.

For Wareham property owners, that spells an 82-cent increase in annual taxes for each $1,000 of assessed value. To calculate how much an individual property’s taxes would increase, visit www.newschool.warehammps.org.

Tentatively named the Decas School at Minot Forest, the new school will be built at the site of the current Minot Forest School.

Designed to educate 1,020 students from kindergarten through Grade 4, the new school will replace both the Minot Forest School, closed since this summer, and Decas Elementary School.

For several years, officials have considered options for a new school. This part of the process began in earnest in 2016 when Town Meeting voters approved spending $1 million for a study to explore renovation and rebuilding options.

The study found both elementary schools are in need of extensive electrical, mechanical and plumbing upgrades to meet current building codes – in addition to expensive removal of asbestos hazards and structural changes needed to make the buildings handicap accessible.

Exploration of renovating both schools generated a cost estimate of $74 million. Unlike new construction, such repairs would not have been eligible for state funds.

Local officials have since been working through a lengthy process required by the state to design the school.

In the months leading up to Tuesday, officials held several information sessions to educate voters about the new school.

On Election Day, 54 percent of voters said “yes” (5,143 votes) and 39 percent said “no” (3,670 votes), approving a $40 million “debt exclusion” to pay for the school.

“It truly is an exciting day for Wareham, and thank you to everyone who had a part in this ‘yes’ vote today,” said Bacchiocchi.

Up next, the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which is tasked with providing final approval, will review a schematic design on Dec. 12. A final vote is expected on the project at that time.

School Building Committee members were confident the project would receive state approval.

Should the project receive the OK from the state, officials plan on putting the project out to bid by January 2020.

The plan, officials said, is to open the new school in fall 2021.