December 6, 2019 by Carol Britton Meyer
It looks like the third try could be the charm when it comes to seeking Massachusetts School Building Authority partial state reimbursement for what school officials have said for years is much-needed renovation work -- or a completely new building -- for Foster School.
The agenda posted on the MSBA website for the Authority's Dec. 11 meeting includes authorization to invite the Town of Hingham and 10 other communities and school districts into the MSBA's Eligibility Period, which comes as welcome news to Hingham school officials, teachers, and families of Foster schoolchildren concerned about the issues plaguing the building. More details will be available after that meeting.
The MSBA partners with Massachusetts communities to support the design and construction of educationally-appropriate, flexible, sustainable, and cost-effective public school facilities.
Even with acceptance into the Eligibility Period, the town would not be committed to filing for an application for funding with the MSBA unless through an affirmative Town Meeting vote.
A Statement of Interest was submitted to the MSBA for the third time last April, followed by a site visit Sept. 10.
Following the submission of the SOI, Town Meeting 2019 supported a warrant article seeking $350,000 in funding to cover extraordinary capital maintenance expenses that might occur while awaiting the MSBA's decision. Some of that money has been spent.
During the Eligibility Period, the MSBA works with school districts to determine their financial and community readiness to enter the MSBA Capital Pipeline.
Upon timely and successful completion of the Eligibility Period requirements, the district becomes eligible for an invitation into the Feasibility Study phase of the MSBA Capital Pipeline, subject to a vote of the Board of Directors.
The $750,000 appropriated at Town Meeting 2017 for a feasibility study -- but not used because the project was not accepted by the MSBA at that time -- is available for the required feasibility study that would be done in partnership with the MSBA if the town is invited into the Feasibility Study period.
Any costs that would be incurred in excess of any grant approved by and received from the MSBA would be borne by the town and would require a Town Meeting vote before the project could move forward.
School Building Committee Vice Chair Ray Estes noted at a meeting last summer that Reps. Joan Meschino and Sen. Patrick O'Connor have expressed support for the project to the MSBA and participated in a previous MSBA tour of Foster.
Foster School was built in 1951, with an addition in 1957 and renovations in 1974 and 2008. The building is in need of major work or a new school in order to provide a full range of programs consistent with state and local requirements, according to school officials.
Hingham received MSBA funds for major South School and High School renovations in the 1990s and for the new Middle and East schools later on.