Why do we need a new or renovated Shaw School?
The Raymond E. Shaw School was constructed in 1975 and is typical of middle schools designed in that time period with respect to layout, construction materials, and programming. The school has seen few if any improvements and no additions or renovations since opening in 1975 and, despite the staff’s ongoing efforts to ensure a safe and well-maintained learning environment, the Shaw School is no longer able to sufficiently meet our needs.
The school’s mechanical and electrical systems are original to the building and provide inefficient and inadequate service. The school is not fully ADA compliant and can only minimally meet the Section 504 requirements of students with environmental sensitivities who require strict temperature controls. The building lacks an automatic fire suppression system (sprinklers and standpipes). Of special concern is an ongoing issue of underground water seeping up through the foundation and pooling on floor tiles in certain locations, which causes wet conditions and slip hazards. It no longer meets today’s building codes, has structural deficiencies, inefficient and inoperable systems and does not adequately support our educational curriculum. Since original construction, there have been no repair or construction projects of any kind for the R.E. Shaw School that required borrowing or an override.
Furthermore, the town is experiencing a significant increase in new housing starts, which will inevitably lead to a significant spike in school enrollment (there are currently 269 multi-bedroom homes under construction in six different developments with more planned in the near future). While some additional enrollment can be accommodated at the Elmwood Street School and the Jr./Sr. High School, the Shaw School is at maximum capacity.
Is the current Shaw School safe?
Yes. The Administration is confident that the R.E. Shaw School is safe for student and staff occupancy until a new building is constructed. While the R.E. Shaw School has reached the end of its useful life, the District is closely monitoring the structure and indoor air quality to ensure it is satisfactory at all times.
What is the role of the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA)?
Created by the legislature in 2004, the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) is a quasi-independent state authority that supports cities and towns to fund a program of grants for capital improvement projects for schools across the Commonwealth. The MSBA dedicates one penny of the state’s 6.25% sales tax to help partially fund needed school construction projects.
The Raymond E Shaw Elementary School was one of the 15 schools selected out of 83 core applicants to the grant program. With the approval of the MSBA, the state will provide a grant to support the cost of the project.
Could we fix the school building ourself to make it last for another ten or more years?
The Town and School Administration have made some essential repairs over the years. However, due to the high and growing number of needed repairs, costing millions of dollars, town officials submitted the Statement of Interest to MSBA to study the most cost effective and educationally appropriate solution for the Shaw Elementary School.
Partnering with the MSBA allows us to address all of Shaw’s building deficiencies comprehensively at less than half the cost. If we were to address some of the more significant building issues piecemeal, none of the cost would be reimbursed; the Town would incur all costs associated with becoming ADA compliant, upgrading the electrical system, providing fire suppression systems, replacing the HVAC system, addressing the issue of groundwater permeating the foundation, and, if necessary, housing students in alternative venues while repairs are made.
Why can't we build a new high school?
The Town of Millbury and the MSBA have agreed that the Raymond E. Shaw is the highest priority for the Millbury School District based on studies performed during the MSBA eligibility phase. Based on the assessment by the state, the MSBA agreed to partner with the Town of Millbury only on the Shaw project.
The Town of Millbury could certainly consider an alternative project such as this, but would not receive reimbursement from the MSBA, which has declined to support this reconfiguration scenario. Without the support of the MSBA, Millbury would incur the full cost of any building project
How did we get to this stage of the project?
In March of 2016, the Town submitted a Statement of Interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), outlining the Shaw building’s deficiencies and project objectives. At the February 15, 2017 Board of Directors meeting, the MSBA Board voted to issue an invitation to the Town to conduct a feasibility study, which is the MSBA’s initial step in partnering with the Town of Millbury to investigate these conditions and develop a cost effective, sustainable and educationally appropriate solution to the aging Shaw Elementary School. The Raymond E Shaw Elementary School was one of the 15 schools selected out of 83 core applicants to the grant program.
The Millbury School Building Committee had no preconceived solutions and over the last two years they have been investigating renovation, renovation and addition, and new construction options, all of which are required by the MSBA feasibility study process.
Ten options were evaluated during the Feasibility Study. These included five grade/enrollment configurations, with each having a new construction and addition/renovation option to result in ten options total. More than twenty committee meetings and public forums were held, where the committee and consultants focused on the following criteria when evaluating and developing the options: educational benefits, educational parity, student transitions, sustainability, collateral projects, and project cost. The five configurations explored were:
Do Nothing: Repair existing building only, Grades 4-6, 415 students (This is the current configuration)
Option 0: Renovate existing building, Grades 4-6, 415 Students
Option A: Addition and Renovation to meet educational program, Grades 4-6, 415 Students
Option B: Addition and Renovation to meet educational program, Grades 3-6, 550 Students
Option C: New building to meet educational program, Grades 3-6, 550 Students
The Do Nothing Option, which only includes building repairs and code upgrades, was eliminated for high cost of about $30 million. There would be no improvement to support current educational programs, and it would not relieve overcrowding at Elmwood or Shaw Elementary Schools. This option would not be supported by MSBA funding.
Options 0 encompassed multiyear phased renovation which would upgrade the physical building but would not allow for increased enrollment or provide space suitable for current educational programs. Feasibility Phase cost estimate at $47 to $49 million.
Options A and B are both multiyear phased renovations and additions that would provide a facility that meets current space and educational program needs. Option B would reconfigure grades between Shaw and Elmwood so Shaw would be a grade 3 thru 6 school and Elmwood would be a K through 2 school. This would eliminate the overcrowding experienced at Elmwood ES and would prevent the need for an expansion project at Elmwood in the near future. The addition/ renovation options involve phased construction which would have significant impact on the school’s educational environment over the three year construction duration. Students would have to be taught in modular buildings during the full construction. Feasibility Phase cost estimates were $52 to $60 million.
Option C (chosen option) a new 90,266 square foot two-story school serving 550 students in grades 3 through 6. In the new school, classrooms will be clustered for cross-disciplinary learning around collaborative, project-based learning areas where students and faculty can work together in both small and large groups. This option would reconfigure grades between Shaw and Elmwood so Shaw would be a grade 3 through 6 school and Elmwood would become a K through 2 school. This would eliminate the overcrowding experienced at Elmwood and would prevent the need for an expansion project at Elmwood in the near future. Feasibility Phase cost estimates were $55 to $61 million.
What are the total costs of the project and what is included?
The total Project Budget as approved by the MSBA and Millbury School Building Committee is $60,922,761. This budget reflects the construction of the new building at 90,266 SF with high efficiency building systems and state of the art technology. The estimated costs includes all the site costs including the artificial turf fields, new entrance drive, new parking lot and entrance plaza and exterior play areas and outdoor educational spaces. The total construction estimate is $49.3 million. The total project budget of $60.9 million includes all design and management costs, new furniture and equipment for the school and all new technology. The budget also includes contingency to cover any unforeseen expenses.
If approved, the current Project would prevent the need for additional projects at Elmwood in the foreseeable future, thus reducing potential long-term costs to the Town. The project also includes a gymnasium that is larger than MSBA standards, to allow league basketball games for community use, and artificial turf multi-purpose athletic fields.
The total project cost estimate includes all construction costs – the new building, site work, playfields, and demolition of the existing school. It also includes design fees, construction-related testing costs, construction contingencies and furniture and educational technology equipment. In short, it covers all costs associated with constructing and fit out of the project.
How much will the MSBA reimburse the Town for the Project?
The total project budget as agreed to by the MSBA is $60.9 million. It is estimated that the MSBA will provide approximately $24.2 to $24.7 million in State funds for the Project, the Town’s share after the grant is estimated to be $36.4 to 36.9 million.
What spaces are included in the Shaw School plan?
24 general classrooms, grades 3-6, that meet MSBA size guidelines
Classroom neighborhoods with shared front porch flex spaces
Fully integrated special education programs
Music and Chorus adjacent to the stage for flexibility
Large Cafeteria with stage
2 STEM classrooms with adjacent outdoor work area
New technology infrastructure
High efficiency building systems
A Gym sized for league basketball
Centrally located Media Center with meeting space, housing the book collection, providing instructional space and specialists work space
Outdoor play field and learning spaces
Full accessibility inside and out
When would the new Shaw School open?
The new Shaw School building will be complete by spring 2022 with commissioning and fit out over the summer for a fall 2022 opening. Once the students leave for summer of 2022, the old school building will be demolished and new athletic fields will be built. The new fields will be complete by November of 2022, because the project plans on artificial turf fields, the fields will be usable right away. If natural grass fields were installed, they would not be usable until fall of 2024.
When will the Town be voting to approve the project, and by what means?
There will be a public forum held on Thursday November 7, 2019 at 6:30PM in the HS auditorium to answer any community questions or concerns about the project prior to voting. The town meeting will then be held on November 12, 2019 at 7PM in the HS Auditorium where the initial vote to approve the project will occur. If the voters approve the project at the town meeting, it will then be placed on the ballot and voted on at the special town election taking place in the HS gym on November 19th (voting hours: 7AM-8PM). Both votes are needed for the project to be approved.
Voters will be asked to approve a debt exclusion override which is a temporary increase in property taxes, outside the limits under Proposition 2 ½, to raise the funds necessary to pay debt service costs for a particular project. Debt exclusion funds may only be used for the project listed on the ballot question.
What is the tax impact of the average household?
It is estimated that the tax impact would be $1.21 per $1000 of assessed property value. This is based on a 30 year bond for $36 million at 3.75% fixed rate interest.
What happens if the project is approved by the voters? What are the next steps?
The project will move into the design development during which the design and drawings will be further refined and re-estimated to ensure design stays on budget. This will be followed by the construction documents phase when the construction bid documents are prepared by the architect. The project would be competitively bid in late 2020 and construction would start in early spring of 2021.
What if the project is not approved by the voters?
The Town would not receive the estimated $24.2 to $24.7 million in MSBA state grant funding to resolve the deteriorating conditions of the near-50-year-old Shaw Elementary School.
Taxpayers would still have to spend tens of millions of dollars in significant capital improvements in the upcoming years to address deficiencies and bring the building up to code. Doing this still does not address the educational programming needs.
If the project is not approved, any future effort would require the Town to submit a new Statement of Interest to the MSBA and await an invitation from the MSBA to enter the Eligibility Period phase of the MSBA’s process. This would take years and, in the meantime, the Town would need to use its own funds to repair the R.E. Shaw building – competing with funding for all other Town capital projects. With construction costs escalating at 3-5% per year, a delayed project would likely result in greater cost.