The School Committee on Thursday approved the language for a Special Town Meeting warrant article asking for an additional $850,000 for the Marathon School addition project. The money for the project could be taken out of the department’s Legacy Farms Fund allocation and thus would not affect taxpayers.
Recently, the Select Board set Aug. 18 as the Special Town Meeting date. A two-thirds vote will be needed for the measure to be passed.
The need for the additional money came about when Mill City Construction submitted the lowest responsible (construction only) bid of $3.9 million. The other bidders ranged from $4 million to $4.7 million.
Two independent cost estimators noted that the increases in costs are the result of factors like fuel prices, construction expenses, labor shortages and increases in materials like steel, metal deck framing, drywall and more.
Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh explained that legally, the bids are firm through Aug. 4. Mill City Construction has agreed to hold its price until the end of August, although it is not legally bound to do so.
The committee previously discussed how it is better to move ahead now than reject all the bids and start over, anticipating that the cost increases will be even higher in the future.
“This is just a tragic reality for now,” said Vice Chair Amanda Fargiano.
Committee member Lya Batlle-Rafferty emphasized that the plan is to have the funds moved from the school’s own stabilization fund meant to address increasing enrollment needs.
Town Meeting previously approved $3.6 million for the project in May 2021 and then an additional $695,900 in May 2022.
The expected project total now is $5.1 million.
Cavanaugh said that by moving forward now, the hope still is to have the Marathon addition completed in the fall of 2023.
Fargiano talked about the importance of reaching the quorum of 128 members at the Special Town Meeting. She noted that the spring Annual Town Meeting had to stop and start a few times because of lack of participation.
Cavanaugh noted that when the school was being constructed in 2015, the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) built for a capacity of 355 students. It later allowed an increase to provide for 395 students.
The current student population is at 568 in Kindergarten and Grade 1. Additionally, there are 95 children in pre-kindergarten, an increase from 58.
A related vote approved Mill City Construction as the project’s general contractor. The bid approval and contract signing both are pending the additional $850,000 funding.
Enrollment numbers rise
The superintendent also reviewed some enrollment figures, showing a comparison between the end of the school year to now.
While the district ended its year with 4,069 students in June, that figure now is at 4,118 registered to attend in September. She said the numbers could change as some eighth-graders leave the district. On the other hand, sometimes parents coming into town enroll their children during August.
As it stands, there are only five grades with an enrollment below 300 students. She said Grade 4 has 338 children, so some rooms have 25 students in them. Small group instruction is used, Cavanaugh said, and all available space is being used to deal with overflow in the buildings.
Students present on composting program
Three Hopkinton High School students are leading the charge to eliminate food waste in the school cafeteria. Alice Potapov and Avani Daga (Alveena Ehsan was not present) discussed starting a composting program in partnership with Black Earth Composting.
The students noted that Black Earth Composting currently is used by 200 households in town. The company would provide equipment and would pick up two or three times per week, depending on the school’s needs.
The cost would be $5,000 per year.
Many items on the school menu can be composted, Potapov and Daga noted. Signage and volunteers would help in educating their peers on what is accepted and what is not.
The students researched a successful program in Lexington, overseen by a town group of adults called the “Green Team.” Hopkinton could keep the program entirely student run to avoid taxing staff.
The students propose recruiting members of the National Honor Society to use this initiative as their volunteering opportunity.
They also would reach out to the school’s garden and environmental clubs to get volunteers and may start a composting club in the future, the students said.
No decision was made on the plan because high school administrators and company representatives would have to be brought in first to discuss logistics and funding. …
Also during the meeting, the board welcomed new Hopkinton Middle School Principal Matthew Lefebvre, who said he anticipates the school opening to feature “a ton of energy,” and said he will be doing a lot of listening, walking the halls and visiting classrooms to get acquainted with everyone.