Wareham School Committee makes case for $90 million school proposal
Ahead of a Nov. 6 vote that will decide if Wareham builds a $90 million elementary school, School Committee members and a resident made a public appeal in favor of the project.
Resident Rhonda Veugen spoke during the public comment portion of Thursday’s School Committee meeting.
“This vote will shape the future of Wareham’s youngest citizens,” said Veugen, who is vice president of engagement for the Buzzards Bay Coalition. “Leading up to the vote, speak up and speak out. Find your own voice and own reason for saying ‘yes.’”
Veugen urged residents to say “yes” on ballot question 4, which if approved would allow the town to temporarily raise taxes property taxes in order to fund the new school.
Tentatively named the Decas School at Minot Forest, the new school would be built at the site of the current Minot Forest School. The 159,000-square-foot building would be designed to educate 1,020 students from kindergarten through Grade 4. The new school would cost a total of $90 million. The state is committed to contributing roughly $50 million while the town would need to spend $40 million. Officials have explored the option of renovating both schools. Estimates have come back at $74 million to repair both with no reimbursement from the state.
At Town Meeting on Oct. 22, voters authorized to borrow the funds. Now, the decision ultimately rests with voters during the Nov. 6 election. To fund the project, residents will be asked to approve a “debt exclusion” to the tax-limiting Proposition 2-1/2. Unlike an “operational override” such as voters failed to approve several years ago, a debt exclusion raises property taxes only for as long as is needed to repay a specific debt and only for as long as is needed to repay the debt.
The two current elementary schools were built in the 1960s. Both have been plagued by a range of structural issues in recent years. A 2016 study, commissioned by Town Meeting, concluded that both buildings had outlived their usefulness.
Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Shaver-Hood and School Committee Chair Joyce Bacchiocchi said it’s time for voters to educate themselves on the importance of a new school.
“We’ve spent a lot of time reaching out to the community,” said Bacchiocchi. “We found people who are on the fence don’t have all the information.”
Shaver-Hood noted that a website dedicated to informing about the public is available at: http://newschool.warehamps.org/.
“If you’re undecided, please come and ask questions,” said Shaver-Hood. “We will be happy to answer any questions you may have and help you make an informed decision.”