School Building Committee must weigh whether to include fourth grade in new Wareham elementary school

May 10, 2018

The School Building Committee has another decision to make: whether a new, rebuilt Minot Forest Elementary School should include space for fourth grade students.

Originally, the school was planned to accommodate pre-kindergarten through fourth grade students. However, the Massachusetts School Building Authority has recommended the committee consider a school building suitable for pre-kindergarten through third grade.

On May 9, Dennis Daly, principal with Mount Vernon Group Architects, explained to the school committee that the state wants both options to be considered so all information is available before the plan is presented at Town Meeting.

On March 27, members of the School Building Committee, who were appointed by the School Committee, favored a three-story, $86 million building with space for 1,020 students. The project will combine Minot Forest and Decas Elementary into one school where Minot is currently located. If approved, the project will be partially funded by the state. Officials said a new building is needed to replace an aging Minot Forest Elementary. The school is more than 50 years old.

At April Town Meeting in 2017, voters approved the borrowing of $1 million to fund a feasibility study. The feasibility study will explore different options for revamping the school and is a requirement of the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which will reimburse the town 70 percent of the project’s construction cost.

In the original plan, with 1,020 students in the building, the school would have three stories, Daly said, with pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students having their own entrance and parking spaces on the lowest level. Second floor plans call for housing first and second grade classrooms, along with a community space. Third floor plans place third and fourth grade classrooms there along with a “maker space” for technology, science and math lessons.

The plan the state suggested looked into having space for 820 students in pre-kindergarten through third grade. In this scenario, the youngest grades would be on the main floor and the older students on the second floor of a two-story building.

The School Building Committee will evaluate both options at its meeting on May 14 before deciding on their recommendation to the state. Wareham Public Schools Superintendent Kimberly Shaver-Hood said she still hopes to see a pre-kindergarten through fourth grade configuration as originally planned.

“It’s really just about due diligence and making sure we have the right project,” said Business Manager Michael MacMillan.

Plans call for completing a design in time for voters to consider a debt exclusion at the October 2018 Town Meeting. If approved, the issue would go before local voters for final approval during the state's Nov. 6 election as a ballot question. The debt exclusion would raise taxes on residents to pay for the project for the life of the debt.