Frequently Asked Questions:
Will the Feasibility Study take into account updated population assessment, to size any proposed new construction accordingly?
Yes, the School Committee is seeking full updated MSBA and Arthur Wagman formula and population estimates for Hopkinton that would be included in the Feasibility Study as part of the project sizing.
Do we know whether we are renovating Elmwood School, or constructing a new building or what type of building?
Yes. The Feasibility Study provided a transparent process in which active community engagement was sought to determine the nature of the solution to the constraints at Elmwood School. The project team and ESBC explored multiple renovation and addition options. The ESBC evaluated new construction options at multiple sites in Town including land not currently owned by the Town. After thorough deliberations, the ESBC selected a new construction option at the Hayden Rowe site.
Have sites for a solution been selected?
Yes, a site has been selected. Identification of potential sites, evaluation of those sites, and selection of a site were all completed as part of the Feasibility Study phase. Community outreach and input were integral parts of the process. The ESBC voted to select the Hayden Site, which is adjacent to the Marathon School Site. The Proposed building is set back deep on the site far away from Hayden Rowe allowing additional space of on campus vehicle queueing.
Why is Elmwood costing so much more than Marathon?
The two biggest factors driving the cost difference between this project and Marathon are size and inflation. The replacement for Elmwood School will house 3 grades and reflects the tremendous growth in population that the Town has seen in the last 5 years. The new school will be built for 1195 students, about 3 times the 395 that the Marathon project was built to house. Construction inflation over the last 5 years has been 36% by most measures. Factoring all of this in, the new school cost is estimated to be about 3 times the Marathon School plus 30% caused by inflation.
Wouldn't it cost less money to renovate the current Elmwood School?
The addition/renovation option was reviewed at the community forum on January 24, 2023. It was also discussed at ESBC meetings in January and February. Elmwood has several unique characteristics that challenge reuse and upgrades, such as multiple floor levels, existing construction type and the size and configuration of the existing space vs the number of students that a new school will need to support. An addition and renovation of this scale also requires the remaining portions be upgraded to current building codes, which can prove quite costly. The architects and engineers determined that a grade 2, 3, and 4 school was not feasible given the size of the building required for 1195 students, and its existing location on a limited site. The estimators still priced the addition and renovations of a grade 2 and 3 school at $109-110M, which was compared to the $103-105M for a new construction grade 2-3 new school on that site and the Hayden Rowe site. Also factored into that cost consideration is that such a renovation requires relocation of the students during construction. Using similar actual costs from other projects in the state, the temporary facilities required to house 622+ students in a built temporary school for 2 years was estimated to cost $28M. This swing space cost plus construction cost of at least $131M rivaled the new construction cost of the significantly larger 2, 3, and 4 grade school at $131-135M, which were 44% larger buildings to handle the additional fourth grade. As a 2,3, and 4 grade addition was not feasible, its development stopped after the school committee selected a 2,3, and 4 grade configuration in January.
Can we use the vacant building at 52 South Street?
The building at 52 South Street was reviewed during the Feasibility Study. It was built in 2002 as a near 150K square foot office building. Office buildings are not easy to convert into schools because they have none of the common spaces like gymnasiums or large enough cafeterias to accommodate the needs of an elementary school. In addition, office building designs are not conducive to educational environments. The design of the building would make it nearly impossible to have every classroom in a place that had a window for example. With the building being 20 years old and not a school, the HVAC systems are most likely inadequate and would need to be complete removed and replaced. With all these factors and factoring a reasonable cost to acquire the property which the Town does not own, the cost for this project would likely not be much less expensive than the current proposal and would result in a far less optimal solution.
What if we built two smaller schools versus one large school?
Building two schools would not be less expensive than one larger school and, quite likely, would be more expensive as each school would need its own site infrastructure including driveways etc. The MSBA only reimburses one project at a time in a district so it is also quite likely that we would receive less reimbursement overall if we built two smaller schools therefore raising the price of the project overall.
What is the MSBA Reimbursement rate for this project?
Hopkinton’s expected reimbursement rate for this project is between 48 and 50% based on all incentives for which we qualify. While this is the reimbursement rate for the entire project, the MSBA does cap the amount of total dollars in some categories that are eligible for reimbursement. For example, if our project has a construction cost of $714 per square foot, the MSBA will only reimburse on up to $393 per square foot of construction costs. Factoring these caps, we expect that the MSBA will reimburse around 28-30% of the total project cost.
When will this school be ready for students and teachers?
The current project timeline would have the school completed and ready for occupancy in December of 2027.
Traffic is already challenging on Hayden Rowe. Won't this new school make it worse? How will we address traffic needs?
Traffic on Hayden Rowe was a significant consideration as we selected the Hayden Rowe site. In consideration of the traffic situation, the building will be positioned towards the back of the site allowing extra queuing space to take cars and buses off of Hayden Rowe. We are also looking to make improvements to Hayden Rowe in that will prevent cars waiting to turn left from blocking traffic going straight. Our goal is to make sure the traffic is not made worse and, hopefully with the additional space on the site for queuing cars and buses, make conditions better.
Play space and fields are important. What will the green space, play structures and outdoor spaces look like for our students?
Playspace will be a combination of open lawn, structured playgrounds, basketball courts and hardscape play. Play structures will be age appropriate and be a combination of climbers, spinners, sensory elements, and swings. The actual selections of play equipment will be established based on meetings with the school staff moving forward. There will also be designed outdoor gathering areas that include shade structures, benches and picnic tables that can be used for recess gathering, lunch/snack or outdoor education.
Our school model for Elmwood is to have grades 2, 3, 4 together in one building. Why was this decision made?
The School Committee made the decision to add the 4th grade to this project to help alleviate the overcrowding at all schools not just Elmwood. This addition will allow us to receive MSBA reimbursement for the needed expansion of the 4th grade and reduce some of the other capital projects needed at the Middle and High School. This is the most efficient way to use our tax dollars to help expand our schools to meet the demand of our increasing student population.
How will this impact my taxes? What will this cost me?
The current estimate is that the town would need to borrow a total of $125 million dollars to complete this project. As that is not all borrowed at once the actual per year impact of the project varies from year to year. Assuming our normal borrowing practice and a projected interest rate of 3.4%, the largest cost to a taxpayer would come in the tax year 2027 when the average home would pay $1135 towards the borrowing for this project. An average home in Hopkinton is defined as being valued at $753,300 and paid about $11,900 in taxes last year.