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MEPA forum reviews new school project

by | Mar 28, 2024 | Education, Featured: Education

On Wednesday, a public forum about the new elementary school was held to meet state requirements for the Massachusetts Environmental Protection Act office.

The MEPA review is designed to allow residents in the environmental justice community portion of Hopkinton the opportunity to offer feedback and ask questions. The agency wants to ensure that this population is not marginalized.

Presenters included representatives from Perkins Eastman and Vertex, Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh and Assistant Superintendent Susan Rothermich, Elementary School Building Committee chair Jon Graziano and member Bill Flannery, who also sits on the Appropriation Committee.

Among the reviews were the project’s financial impact, exterior and interior site plans and educational model.

The project is at the end of design development and moving into the construction documentation phase, according to Graziano. Next steps include starting the local and state permitting process, which includes meeting with the Planning Board, said Graziano.

Construction is expected to begin during the second half of 2025, with the new school anticipated to open in January 2028.

Graziano outlined the “extensive interaction with the community” that has occurred. It featured nine public forums and several meetings with town organizations in the run-up to a successful Town Meeting vote in November 2023.

Project cost, tax impact addressed

Flannery explained the financial aspects of the vote, noting the total project cost is $158,422,394. The town’s expected contribution is $91.2 million after subtracting potential Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) reimbursement of $61.5 million, $1.7 million from a MassSave rebate and $4 million from expected Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) rebates.

Further, the $91.2 million includes $10.1 million in contingency funds, which Flannery said protects the town if unexpected costs arise.

He said in the peak year (2028, when the town will have borrowed), taxpayers with an average home value of $852,400 will see their taxes increase by $945, or an 8% increase from current taxes.

Flannery added interest rates will fluctuate and the tax impact will lessen over time.

New school campus described

Robert Bell, programming director at Perkins Eastman, talked about the campus plan located south of Marathon School with connectivity between the two buildings.

The Grades 2-4 facility with three stories will have three “academic neighborhood” wings in the back of the building, while the front will have spaces used by the community after hours, with security measures in place at the entrance, Bell said.

He said it was “paramount” to design small learning neighborhoods “so it feels and can be experienced” that way throughout the day, a sentiment echoed by Cavanaugh.

She said students “living” in the wings would have the opportunity to be comfortable and familiar with peers and teachers in those spaces for three years. Cavanaugh noted that each academic wing would have an assistant principal and adjustment counselor.

The superintendent also talked about three science, technology and engineering rooms and “maker spaces,” noting that state standards change with an emphasis to “do science … roll up sleeves and experiment.”

Cavanaugh said the MSBA had called for an overhaul of the science curriculum, which is taking place.

She described the “purposeful design” of breakout spaces to meet remedial needs and where students can work on projects together.

She said the media center (on two floors) is “where literacy and learning take place.” Cavanaugh said “literacy” does not only refer to literature but also to financial and scientific literacy.

The superintendent noted that classrooms have been “de-fronted” — that is, the students do not sit in rows facing the teacher up front. Instead, they work at tables in small groups or individually with the teacher.

“There are multiple things happening in a classroom … with students getting what they need and instruction targeted to meet the needs of unique learners,” she said.

She added that spaces for students learning English are included. Currently, 28 languages are spoken at Marathon School, she noted.

Bell pointed out how “natural themes” are incorporated in the design, creating a “modern educational facility that extends learning beyond the classroom.”

Traffic patterns discussed

Graziano noted plans for roadway improvements at the Marathon School entrance, including a signalized crosswalk and an extension of the turn lane storage.

He said the access road to the two-school campus would allow for a queue of 140 cars, pulling them off Hayden Rowe Street with the hope of reducing traffic backups.

He said a signal at the intersection of the current Marathon driveway is being considered.

By having the two schools next to each other, Graziano said, 12 buses will be freed from routes — allowing for adjustments, consolidation of stops and shorter rides.

Because there were no audience members attending, Vertex project manager Chris Eberly referred residents to a questionnaire at https://shorturl.at/CGUZ7.

It will be posted until late April so that townspeople can share their views about the project.

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

    Wow
    ‘There were no audience members present’
    Seems like a very expensive meeting to hold. Was the meeting advertised to public?
    Was there an opportunity for other Town Boards and Departments to input such as Conservation Commission, DPW, Fire Department, Police, water and sewer, Select Board.
    Did any of these agencies attend?

    Reply

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