Requests for FY21 total nearly $16M
The Hopkinton School Committee approved the 10-year capital plan during its Nov. 14 meeting, an approval that included a request for close to $16 million in capital requests for FY21.
Some of the requests were being submitted for inclusion on warrants that were to be up for vote during the Special Town Meeting scheduled for Dec. 9.
Director of finance and operations Susan Rothermich spoke about each of the capital projects that were included in the FY21 budget in turn.
With the unprecedented enrollment increases in the district over the past few years (an increase of 500 students in the past three years alone), space in the buildings has become significantly constrained. With the buildings already over capacity, and predictions of an additional 1,000 students coming into the district over the next 10 years, the district is looking to increase the number of classrooms as soon as next school year.
The FY21 capital plan includes $4 million to construct six additional permanent classrooms at the high school, $3 million for two portable classrooms units at Hopkins Elementary School and $2 million for four portable classroom units at Elmwood Elementary School.
Although Elmwood will be getting portable classrooms if the budget is approved, the district still needs to go forward on a feasibility study to “generate an initial space summary, document existing conditions, establish design parameters, develop and evaluate alternatives” for Elmwood to present to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA). The MSBA then would determine if Elmwood would qualify for MSBA reimbursement for a refurbishment or complete rebuild of the school building. The $700,000 cost for the feasibility study may be reimbursed if Elmwood is invited into the MSBA process.
“Even if we get accepted into the MSBA for Elmwood we are five years away from a new school,” said Rothermich, explaining the need for the portable classrooms now.
Other major capital expenses for next year will be $4 million worth of roof replacements at Hopkins and the middle school, two HVAC unit replacements — one at the high school and one at the middle school — at $250,000, a boiler replacement at the middle school at $160,000, and systemwide technology upgrades at $100,000 bring the total ask to nearly $16 million for capital expenses next year.
After thanking her for the presentation, School Committee chair Meena Bharath asked Rothermich if the town partners were aware of the requests that would be coming from the school district.
“Is there an appetite for this kind of borrowing?” she asked.
Rothermich replied that the department has been communicating with the CFO and town manager and that they were aware of the capital needs for the district.
The School Committee unanimously approved a number of town articles to be included in the warrant for the Dec. 9 Special Town Meeting. The articles were for the approval of the additional classrooms at the high school, Hopkins and Elmwood. Although on the FY21 plan, getting an early approval will allow the district to get a jumpstart on the projects.
“This is especially important for the high school,” said Rothermich. “If we can break ground in June, we can open the classrooms before the second semester next year. Given where we are in terms of enrollment, it makes sense to get the project under way.”