School Building Committee favors $86 million plan to combine Wareham elementary schools

By Matthew Bernat | Mar 27, 2018
Photo by: Matthew Bernat Chad Crittenden, left, of PMA Consultants, and Dennis Daly of Mount Vernon Group Architects discuss plans for redesigning Minot Forest Elementary on Tuesday.

Members of the School Building Committee on Tuesday favored a three-story, $86 million building with space for 1,020 students to replace Minot Forest Elementary School.

Committee members, who were appointed by the Wareham School Committee, shared the plans with Selectmen. The group is spearheading the project, which will combine Minot Forest and Decas Elementary into one school where Minot is currently located. If approved, the project will be partially funded by the state. Officials said a new building is needed to replace an aging Minot Forest Elementary. The school is more than 50 years old.

At April Town Meeting in 2017, voters approved the borrowing of $1 million to fund a feasibility study. The feasibility study will explore different options for revamping the school and is a requirement of the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which will reimburse the town 70 percent of the project’s construction cost.

Chad Crittenden, a director with PMA Consultants – the committee’s consulting firm – said repair, renovation and new construction options were weighed. Building new is likely the best option, he said.

“There isn’t a cost efficient way to repair those buildings,” said Crittenden.

Repairing Minot now and Decas in five years may cost an estimated $51 million. State funds are not available to the town for a repair option. Another possibility, renovating Minot and building an addition, is an estimated $91 million, of which the town must pay $40 million.

Crittenden said a design for a three-story, estimated $86 million building is the preferred option. Of the $86 million, the town must pay $37 million.

Dennis Daly, principal with Mount Vernon Group Architects, said plans call for placing pre-kindergarten students on the first floor along with offices for administrators. Second floor plans call for housing first and second grade classrooms along with a community space. Third floor plans place third and fourth grade classrooms there along with a “maker space” for technology, science and mathematics lessons.

“We’re envisioning a hub of technology and learning,” said Daly.

Moving forward, Crittenden said officials will submit a design option to the state for approval on June 27. If that plan is approvd, officials will spend the next year further developing the design. Construction could begin as soon as fall of 2019. Crittenden estimated construction may take two years.

Crittenden said plans call for completing a design in time for voters to consider a debt exclusion at the October 2018 Town Meeting. If approved, the issue would go before local voters for final approval during the state's Nov. 6 election as a ballot question. The debt exclusion would raise taxes on residents to pay for the project for the life of the debt.

Officials are considering a new, three-story building to replace Minot Forest Elementary School. The building's footprint is the orange-colored square.
Comments (22)
Posted by: cranky pants | Mar 28, 2018 07:36

Spend spend spend spend spend spend spend...

Posted by: Peaches0409 | Mar 28, 2018 07:49

Cranky we need a school. It's not like you can build one for free. When was the last time you were in either Minot or Decas?

Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | Mar 28, 2018 07:56

Comparison is the only way to help understand something of this magnitude.  The new Natick High School is a beautiful and impressive building.  It houses 1600 high school students in the wealthy community of Natick.   It only cost $78.5 Million.


Natick High is one of the most impressive new high schools in the area.  It is massive.  It dwarfs this proposed building.  Everything is high end.  Extravagant woodwork.  Beautiful grounds on a pond.  State of the art athletic fields.  It's like a college campus!  Even though it's wealthy Natick and even though it's a high school, many still consider it opulent.  It only cost $78.5 Million.


$86 Million seems a little steep for an elementary school in Wareham!





Posted by: Peaches0409 | Mar 28, 2018 08:21

That school was approved almost 10 years ago. You can't possibly think that's a fair comparison.

Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | Mar 28, 2018 08:28

Have you ever been there?  It's got to be 3 times the size of this proposal.  The grounds got to be 5 times the size.  10 years of inflation means nothing.  I'd like to see a $ per square foot comparison with a correction for inflation.

Posted by: bob | Mar 28, 2018 09:28


Posted by: Doctor Deekas | Mar 28, 2018 09:32

This is Wareham raked over the coals once again! $37 million - no thank you! We can't afford $1-2 million on an override, we certainly can't spend that same amount over a 30 year note! This is insanity! Bourne is building a new elementary school right now for like $30 million total! Plymouth is also building one and Sandwich just recently built one. None of them are even close to 86 million! The State also reimburses for the 'study' that we did on the schools and they absolutely do help reimburse for additions to the existing buildings if that's what the preferred option is. What I think is going on here was that was dismissed entirely and we are being given no other options than a new building! Another 'study' that had a pre-existing outcome!

Posted by: cranky pants | Mar 28, 2018 10:13

First we'e combining schools now we need close to 100 million to build a new one ? Where are we ? Why does it cost more to build everything in Wareham ?

Yes, I'm in and out of all the schools in our region thanks for asking.

If this town keeps up on the spending spree it's looking to go on we won't need any schools here because families with young children won't be able to afford to live here. Unless you count the 40B's....

Posted by: Peaches0409 | Mar 28, 2018 10:29

The Bourne school is only for three grades. Much smaller school than this proposed school.

Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | Mar 28, 2018 10:30

How's the saying go?  "Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget".  True, we need a school.  But not an $86 million dollar school!  Wareham can't afford a Chevy but they're shopping for a Mercedes!  Get real people.  Go back and try something practical!

Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | Mar 28, 2018 10:50

Peaches, I have kids in the system.  You probably do as well.  I want the best education possible for mine and future students.  That passion should not cloud rational thought.  $86 million is way too much for a relatively small school with very little site work.  Look at that little depiction.  A small school, a soccer field, and a few chopped up parking lots.  It's not much for that kind of money!

Posted by: WESProjInfo | Mar 28, 2018 11:12

Good morning, to answer some of the above questions:

Natick HS was built for 1300 9-12 students at a 2012 completion cost of $78.8M.  Wareham ES is proposed for 1100 PreK-4 students at a 2021 completion cost target of $86.8M.

Using industry observed escalation data; In today's dollars, the Natick project would cost $126.9M, or 46% more than Wareham's proposed project.  However the Natick building's enrollment only accommodates 18% more students.

The conceptual level cost estimates currently utilized for Wareham are based upon average cost data across nearly 40 similar MSBA projects since 2012 (including Bourne's Peebles ES).  That data is readily available for review on the project's website and Facebook page.

For data on construction market escalation specific to School projects in Massachusetts, please visit here:

The Building Committee's intent is to keep this entire process as transparent as possible from concept to completion, they encourage questions and if there is a more efficient or economical way to address the needs of Wareham's students they are absolutely willing to listen to those ideas.

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Mar 28, 2018 11:27

Bend over again Wareham, the school department needs to out do other Towns in the area. Wareham is doomed

Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | Mar 28, 2018 12:06



Ok, those bodies to dollars numbers are one thing.


But what about acres, square feet, amenities, and craftsmanship?


  • Natick's site is nearly 20 acres on a beautiful pond.  It was all done over during the build.  Minot is about 6 acres and it overlooks Brandy Hill!
  • Natick High is about 500,000 square feet.  How many square feet will Wareham be?
  • Natick High has an 18,000 square foot gym, state of the art science rooms for high school level.  What will Wareham have?
  • What about craftsmanship?  Natick is absolutely beautiful.  They spared no expense.  The woodwork is fine throughout.  So fine that they must run HVAC 24/7 to keep it stable.  How will Wareham be built?

Posted by: Doctor Deekas | Mar 28, 2018 12:16

This is absurd! What elementary school is 3 stories high - are we in the city?? There doesn't seem to be a lot of thought into this proposal. It seems like there was nowhere else to build and they are going to force it on the 6 acre site. Beyond that, the cost is outrageous! Stacking vertically should save cost, it doesn't appear to be any savings here. Again, this Town will not fund an extra $1 million per year for the EXISTING school budget. If we spread out a bond on this project for 30 years, we are still looking at a minimum of $1 million per year that we owe - It's not going to happen! What will happen is the entire dismantling of our school system and you will see school choice skyrocket until we have nothing to fund. That's even more costly. School buildings don't make great students, great teachers and programs do! And from what I see, we have a Superintendent that doesn't want to be here at the rudder.

Posted by: cranky pants | Mar 28, 2018 12:58

Another possibility, renovating Minot and building an addition, is an estimated $91 million, of which the town must pay $40 million.

Crittenden said a design for a three-story, estimated $86 million building is the preferred option.

Is my calculator broke, or does that add up strangely... It's cheaper to build a new house than it is to renovate ? I'll remember that when it comes time to paint my living room, don't repaint.. Rebuild is the notion.

Not all of us are on town payroll, so this isn't an easy pill to swallow.

Posted by: WESProjInfo | Mar 28, 2018 13:25

WAREHAM BY THE SEA - All great questions


The Minot Site is 20.9 Acres, the target Wareham ES building size is 155,000SF.  Wareham's target building size is driven by the MSBA's Space Summary template per their regulations (963CMR), and projected building cost is based upon average MSBA cost data for all similar projects since 2012.


Natick HS is 254,000SF and utilized the MSBA approved Whitman-Hanson model which reduced overall risk/contingencies and design cost.  Unfortunately Wareham's ~1100 enrollment ES does not have any available model as the largest MSBA approved Elementary model is Andover's Bancroft ES which was built for just 680 students and can only accommodate a maximum of 816 students with some design modification (


Other variables such as relatively low cost per square foot of a 18,000SF gymnasium (Wareham's would be 6,000SF, the maximum reimbursable size for an ES) and requirements such as the need to install bathrooms in each Pre-K and Kindergarten classroom can also greatly influence construction cost per square foot.


The Whitman-Hanson model is a very good example of an efficiently constructed building, which is precisely the reason it was selected as a MSBA Board approved model.  Out of the MSBA's current list of 14 approved model schools, you may be happy to hear that 5 of those were constructed by the OPM or Architect selected by Wareham's Building Committee, further reinforcing their commitment to the most cost effective long-term solution possible.

Posted by: WESProjInfo | Mar 28, 2018 13:35

CRANKY PANTS - An addition/renovation solution results in a slightly larger building which is what creates the imbalance.  The MSBA reimbursable square footage remains the same in both new and add/reno options, but when the renovation option is even 5% larger due to existing footprint constraints resulting in less efficient use of space, that means Wareham must pick up 100% of the costs for that entire non-reimbursable square footage.  When you are talking a project of this magnitude, 5% can add up to millions of non-reimbursable cost very quickly.


Fortunately there is no shortage of actual cost data for recent new construction or renovation school projects in MA.  The conceptual estimates to-date for both options are based upon that historical cost data, which is available for review on the project website and Facebook page.


Posted by: bob | Mar 28, 2018 14:12

DOC DEEKAS,Your last to sentences in your comments says it all.....

Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | Mar 28, 2018 22:53

WESPROJINFO - thanks for taking the time to reply.  There certainly are a lot of variables.


Posted by: Knocked for six | Mar 29, 2018 20:12

Is everyone on the SC  on crazy pills?!!!!!!

Posted by: Duffman | Mar 30, 2018 13:50

Doctor Deekas hit the nail on the head. I'm uninterested in funding this, especially with a superintendent that doesn't want to be here at the helm. I can't help but think this is nothing more than something to pad her resume on the way out leaving us holding the tab. Hard pass.

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