MSBA passes on Hopkinton school project

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Superintendent disappointed but hopeful for inclusion next year

The Hopkinton school district’s statement of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) was declined this month, causing the district to reevaluate the next steps for the future of its school buildings.

“We were very hopeful that we would be invited in to be able to start a building project that would address some of our elementary building needs,” said superintendent of schools Dr. Carol Cavanaugh.

According to the MSBA, said Cavanaugh, 61 communities in Massachusetts applied this year, and 11 were invited into the process of getting reimbursement from the state for new or refurbishment school building projects.

“I asked why, because with our enrollment issues, I felt we had a pretty good chance [of being chosen],” Cavanaugh said. “We were told that the invitations are based on ‘need,’ and we were not as needy as those who were selected.”

With the rapid enrollment growth in the district over the past few years and the potential for an additional 1,000 students over the next 10 years, the district has been looking at future plans for the school buildings. During a Dec. 5 public forum, the results of a recent capacity study and recommendations for restructuring the schools were presented. The proposals included a new three-story Grade 2-5 school built on the Todaro land that would replace Elmwood School, a renovation of Hopkins Elementary School, which would hold Grades 6-7, and a renovation to connect the middle and high schools, having Grades 8-9 be taught on the middle school side and 10-12 on the high school side.

The second option proposed was to build two new separate elementary schools — one for Grades 2-3 and one for Grades 4-5. Although it would mean that the grades could have separate spaces, it would increase initial capital and ongoing operational costs as they wouldn’t be able to share resources due to being in different buildings.

The projects would have been funded partially by MSBA reimbursement, if Hopkinton had been invited into the program. The time from being invited into the program to the time the doors are opened would be approximately five years, according to Cavanaugh.

“It will now be a six-year window,” she said, now that Hopkinton was rejected for this year. “There will need to be some serious decision-making in the town of Hopkinton.”

The town used MSBA funding to help build the Marathon Elementary School, receiving $13,779,363 in reimbursement on the total construction costs of $47,129,373, or 29.2 percent reimbursement. There is no rule that a district would have to use MSBA funding for a school building project, but that means it would bear the full cost of the project.

“There is never a guarantee that Hopkinton will even be invited in [to the MSBA program], but in the meantime there are many, many kids at our doorstop and we are predicted to have many, many more over the next decade,” Cavanaugh said.

Cavanaugh recommended that the district continue on with the feasibility study that would have been done as a first step of the MSBA process.

“This way in the event we are not invited in next year we will know what are the costs of some of our options,” she said.

Several School Committee members commented on the importance of involving the community in the process.

“This is going to be a big project and it is important that we bring the community along with us from the very start,” said School Committee chair Meena Bharath.

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