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Independent Thoughts: School in session for Elmwood committee

by | Nov 9, 2023 | Featured, Featured: Features

Whichever way you fall on the proposed new elementary school, you have to — or at least you should — respect the work of the Elementary School Building Committee. Anyone who has followed this closely is aware that these volunteers have worked hard to balance the needs of the ever-growing student population while trying not to bankrupt those of us who no longer have children in the system.

Jon Graziano, for one, was happy to assume the role of ESBC chair even though his youngest child will graduate high school the year the new school is scheduled to open.

“This project was sort of a continuation,” he said. “My wife [Erin] and I have been involved in volunteering in Hopkinton, particularly as it relates to the schools, since we got here. Having been on the School Committee and having been on the previous Marathon School Building Committee, I thought that my experience could benefit the project, in terms of connecting both the town and educational benefits.

“So, I just wanted to help. Because I think it’s really important. The schools have given my family a tremendous amount since we’ve been here, and we’re very interested in giving back.”

Graziano is a management consultant by trade, and some of those skills were able to translate to this position.

“I help companies solve their operational problems, help them grow, help them find more efficient ways to do business and satisfy their customers,” he explained. “So I think in many ways, the line of thinking is probably the same. It’s about taking in information, it’s about analyzing it, it’s about getting as creative as possible to find the right solution that can help all constituencies.”

Coincidentally, Graziano’s wife taught at Elmwood in the early 2000s, before his three children went through the school, giving him intimate knowledge of the building — and just how outdated it is.

“It has served the town well, but it has aged,” he said. “It’s an almost 60-year-old building, and it’s just not fit for purpose anymore.”

Having established that — and having ruled out patches and fixes and expansion there — Graziano and the ESBC focused on a new facility, with an additional grade to alleviate overcrowding at the other schools. And while the price tag is huge — $158 million, although after reimbursements and rebates, Hopkinton taxpayers likely will end up with a bill closer to $90 million — Graziano is confident the committee did what it could to keep the cost as reasonable as possible.

That said, he knows that’s going to be the focus of critics leading up to the Nov. 13 Special Town Meeting and Nov. 28 Special Town Election — both of which will require voter support for the project to move forward.

“The project cost is obviously a really big number. And I think when people see it, and their point of reference is the Marathon School project, it obviously looks even bigger,” Graziano said. “So one of the biggest challenges we’ve had is getting across to as many people as possible that … this is largely driven by the environment of construction and inflation. Construction inflation has experienced higher rates than even what we see at the grocery store.”

If voters do not approve the new school, a huge sum of money still will be spent — just on fixing up and adding to an outdated building rather than constructing a new one, Graziano said.

“A lot of people seem to think that there is a solution out there that we either didn’t choose or haven’t explored that would somehow be significantly less expensive,” he said. “And I can confidently say, with the committee having done all of the work we’ve done over the last couple of years, there really isn’t. This is what it costs. There are other options, but they’re all going to cost about the same thing.”

Senior Services recognized

Congratulations to Hopkinton Senior Services, which was recognized by the National Institute of Senior Centers for its Repair Fair program. The Repair Fair pairs volunteer professionals and do-it-yourselfers with residents who need something fixed, and it’s co-sponsored by the Hopkinton Lions Club.

The Senior Center hosted its first Repair Fair last fall, drawing 36 people. Another event in April had 61 attendees. At the third event this past Sept. 30, some 35 items were repaired, and more than 100 knives and garden tools were sharpened, the center reports.

The National Institute of Senior Centers designated Hopkinton as a winner of one of its annual Programs of Excellence awards.

“We are thrilled at the success of the Repair Fair over the past year and a half and are very grateful for the recognition by the National Institute of Senior Centers,” said Director of Senior Services Amy Beck. “We look forward to continuing this event moving forward, as it is a great way to bring our community together.”

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