The following was submitted by the Westwood Public School Department:
WESTWOOD, MA – Westwood prepares to vote on new elementary school
Approval required at municipal assembly and special election
After three years of research, design and community discussion, Westwood’s proposed new elementary school is going to a special town hall vote on Monday, October 18. With a two-thirds majority in the municipal assembly, and the approval of a simple majority of voters in a Special Municipal Election on October 26, the project will receive the green light.
“The new school will be a safe, modern and zero-net-result ready building that can accommodate up to 560 students,” said the superintendent. Emilie Parcs. “It is designed with today’s educational needs in mind. With appropriately sized classrooms, extensive learning areas, a dedicated science lab, small group discussion space, and learning spaces designed specifically for many of the district’s special education programs, the school is an investment in students for the next 50+ years.
Replacing aging schools
The new building on the Hanlon site would replace the aging Deerfield and Hanlon schools, both built in the early 1950s. Recently, a ceiling collapsed in a Hanlon classroom. Deerfield’s modular classrooms needed roof replacement and mold reduction.
“These schools have exceeded their usefulness,” added Parks. “We have done a great job maintaining them over the decades, but these buildings and their systems are outdated and it is not financially responsible to keep investing money in repairs.”
She added that it would cost the city $ 41 million to bring buildings up to code and upgrade mechanical systems, a sum that would not even address the schools’ lack of space and the increase. scheduled registrations.
The construction of a new combined school will cost $ 87.8 million. The Massachusetts School Building Authority has agreed to cover up to $ 18.2 million of the total cost if residents approve the plan at the city’s meeting and special election. That brings the estimated cost to taxpayers to $ 69.6 million, which would cost the average Westwood owner an additional $ 462 per year, according to the school department.
Parks also pointed out that at $ 621 per square foot, the cost of the proposed Westwood project is in line with, and even lower, the cost per square foot of similar projects in surrounding communities.
“This is a good economic decision as we are combining two aging schools into one,” said Jen Flanders, a mother from Westwood and a member of the “Yes” campaign supporting the project. “It’s a two-for-one deal.”
“A resource for the entire Westwood community”
Westwood schools have built an excellent reputation over the years. They regularly receive high state rankings and national awards. The new school would be an asset not only to the students and their families, but to the entire city, according to Maya Plotkin, chair of the Westwood school committee and school building committee.
“It will be a resource for the entire Westwood community by providing much-needed new playgrounds, a large gymnasium and flexible performance space for the use of the community,” Plotkin said.
The plan includes redesigning traffic patterns to minimize disruption to the neighborhood. School officials expect the grounds to be used for enrichment and summer recreation programs. A new trailhead is under construction with continued access to Lowell Woods.
So what if Town Meeting doesn’t approve the school?
“There is no ‘do nothing’ option here,” Plotkin warned. “If this project fails, we will lose the state’s money and have to reapply in the future,” when the costs increase, she said. “And, there is no guarantee that the MSBA would approve us again.”
The assessed value of Deerfield and Hanlon schools is only $ 10 million combined. Voters in the city will have to decide whether it is safe to allocate funds for repairs that only solve some of the schools’ problems.
“It really is the choice we make,” Plotkin said.
She also pointed out that the Westwood School Department had not called for debt exclusion in a generation, since the new high school was built 20 years ago. The building will be depreciated in 2023.
“It’s a community affair”
Flanders was inspired by what she says is community support for the new school.
“There are so many other people who are excited about this project, it reminds me of the future,” she said, calling it “a community affair, the neighbors helping the neighbors”.
If the new school is approved this month, construction is expected to begin in the summer of 2022 and students could move in from February 2024.
To find out more about the proposed new school, visit this link.
The above submission does not necessarily reflect the views of Patch.