It’s difficult to compare the two building projects. The school building will be significantly larger than the Public Safety building and is being constructed on a particularly challenging site that contains several physical constraints and natural resource areas that need to be protected. The school will have specifically designed spaces to accommodate and support 21st century learning for a design enrollment of 605 K-5 students, plus a pre-K population and Kids-in-Action programming. A sizable portion of the Public Safety facility will be garage bays that will house fire trucks and ambulances. The level of detailed design between the two is not comparable.
If not now, when? Construction costs will never again be as low as they were 10 years ago, and they won’t be decreasing any time soon according to the professional cost estimators engaged to work on our project. Hingham has been awarded a significant grant to pursue the building project now. If the community does not vote to fund the project, Hingham loses that contribution and the opportunity to address the significant issues that have impacted Foster students and staff for many years. To be considered for an MSBA project grant in the future, Hingham would have to go back to the beginning and start the process again, which could take 5 years or even longer and there’s no guaranty we would be chosen again.
The reality is that this school project needed to be done over a decade ago. The 2006 School Facilities Study recommended the pursuit of a project to address the then-existing issues that negatively impacted the delivery of curriculum. In the ensuing years, mechanical systems have continued to deteriorate and falter, requiring costly repairs and even evacuation of the building.
Given the condition of Foster, can we afford to wait any longer? We also now have grant funding from MSBA. Are we willing to risk waiting and lose the opportunity to save Hingham taxpayers tens of millions of dollars? If we were to choose to wait and pursue a project independent of the MSBA, it would be no less costly, and we would lose even more time while students and staff wait for a solution. If the Foster building project does not move forward now, the Town would also have to invest significantly in the upkeep, maintenance, and repair of the current Foster building.
The overwhelming feedback from constituents questioned was that it is important to the Crow Point neighborhood, as well as nearby neighborhoods, to keep Foster and its successor a neighborhood school that allows for a walking community of students. The school will also include a gymnasium, cafetorium, multi-purpose room, softball field, and tennis courts that are all a benefit to the wider community. In addition, the new building will provide for an expansion of the integrated preschool program, which will allow enhanced early childhood education for the whole community. Space in the new school will also allow the expansion of the Kids-in-Action (KIA) program providing much needed additional space for this popular and revenue-generating before and after-school program.