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Your Tewksbury Today

Long Road To A New Elementary School Starts At Special Town Meeting

Apr 28, 2016 09:05AM ● By Bill Gilman

Tewksbury Superintendent of Schools Dr. John O'Connor goes over the Elemetary School Building process with residents during a recent presentation at Tewksbury High School.

Ask parents, teachers and school district administrators about the condition of Tewksbury's four elementary schools and the response is close to unanimous: The Trahan, Heath Brook, North Street and Dewing Schools all need to be replaced.
Finally, the state agrees.
After being turned down the past two years, Tewksbury has finally been accepted into the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) new school construction program. More specifically, Tewksbury has been invited to participate in the 270-day eligibility period.
"Over the next nine months, we must prove to the MSBA that we are ready, willing and able to partner with them to build a new school," said Superintendent of Schools Dr. John O'Connor.
In recent weeks, O'Connor has been hosting informational meetings with parents and other residents to explain the process and what the town needs to do, moving forward. The first step in the process comes at the May 4 Special Town Meeting (7 p.m., Tewksbury High School), when voters will be asked to approve Article 18, which would transfer $1.1 million from the town's Stabilization Fund to pay for a Feasibility Study and related expenses. The money would be overseen by a still-to-be-formed School Building Committee.
Both the School Committee and Board of Selectmen have recommended passage of the article.
According to both O'Connor and Town Manager Richard Montuori, the $1.1 million would be eligible for partial reimbursement by the state if the elementary school project is approved for construction.
The big questions still to be answered over the next several months is how big of an elementary school does Tewksbury want to build and where will it be constructed. In its application to the MSBA, the districted highlighted the Trahan School as the building most in need of replacement. However, all four schools are more than 50 years old and a 2006 engineering report recommended that all four be torn down.
Tewksbury could pursue a path that would ultimately lead to the construction of two new Grades 1-4 schools, one on each side of town, to replace the four existing schools. Under this scenario, Dewing School, the newest of the four, could be renovated and used as an Early Childhood Education Center.
A second, more ambitious possibility, would be a plan to build one "super school" to replace all four elementary schools at one time.
O'Connor said these are just two of many possibilities the town will need to examine in the Feasibility Study over the next nine months, before making a final proposal to the MSBA.
Tewksbury has successfully used the state's School Building Authority to update its educational facilities over the past 10-15 years. Most recently, the town was reimbursed 60 percent by the state to build the new Tewksbury Memorial High School. The minimum reimbursement for the elementary school project would be 51 percent, with the possibility that number could rise to as much as 60 percent.
Attached to this article you will find a PDF of Dr. John O'Connor's Powerpoint presentation on the new elementary school building process.
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