Wareham School Committee closes Minot Forest Elementary

By Matthew Bernat | Apr 28, 2018
Photo by: Matthew Bernat School Committee members Mike Flaherty and Laurie Spear listen before a vote is taken to close Minot Forest Elementary on Friday.

Minot Forest Elementary School will close this fall.

School Committee members voted 4-1 on April 27 to shutter the nearly 50-year-old building, which is beset with structural problems. Upgrades are required for security, electrical wiring and fire safety. Additional classroom space, new windows, boilers, floors and ceilings are needed as well.

Committee members said the unpopular decision was a necessity considering budget woes.

“I’m truly not in favor of this,” said committee member Rebekah Pratt. “If our options are to close a very old, aging and antiquated school to save jobs, then that’s what I’m going to do.”

In addition to closing Minot Forest, nearly 30 positions will be cut as a cost-saving measure. The measures are needed to close the gap between what school officials said is needed to keep pace with rising costs, such as healthcare and salary increases, and what the town could afford to fund. The school district’s $29 million budget was approved at Town Meeting on April 23.

By closing Minot Forest roughly 200 students will be moved to Decas Elementary where some will be housed in portable classrooms outside the main building.

Committee member Mary Morgan, who voted against closing Minot Forest, said that wasn’t a viable long-term option.

“That’s huge concern for me,” said Morgan. “It’s not going to be a good learning environment.”

It’s possible a new school will be built where Minot Forest is currently located. Officials are now working through the school construction process with the Massachusetts School Building Authority. Members of the School Committee-appointed School Building Committee are in favor of a three-story, $86 million building with space for 1,020 students to replace Minot Forest. Officials will submit a design option to the state for approval on June 27. If that plan is approved, officials will spend the next year further developing the design. Construction could begin as soon as fall of 2019 and take two years.

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.

Morgan said if voters don’t approve the new school students may be stuck in the portable classrooms longer than anticipated.

“We’re just putting a band-aid on things,” said Morgan. “And I think we’re going to be stuck with that band-aid.”

Following the vote, members also unanimously approved new grade realignments for Decas Elementary, the middle school and the high school.

Decas will house pre-kindergarten through second grade, the middle school third through seventh grade and eighth through twelfth grades at the high school.

In the months leading up to the vote, parents expressed concern about putting third and seventh grade students in the same building.

Officials said all configuration options were explored, including one that would have placed seventh grade students at the high school. Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Shaver-Hood said because of the building’s design, it would be impossible to give the younger students their own wing away from older students. That option is available for third grade students who will be attending the middle school.

Committee member Rebekah Pratt said the move may be a positive one for the district.

“I think the older kids will be more of role model than we anticipated,” said Pratt.

The committee had originally voted on April 23 to close the school, but because that wasn’t listed on the meeting’s agenda, committee member Michael Flaherty reached out to state officials about a possible open meeting law violation.

Flaherty noted he wasn’t filing a formal complaint, but was seeking guidance. The state's open meeting law governs what officials may and may not discuss in open session and sets regulations for the posting of meetings. In a response, Assistant Attorney General Hanne Rush said his office couldn’t weigh in on a potential violation, but urged Flaherty to err on the side of caution.

“As a best practice our office strongly encourages a public body to postpone any discussion of controversial topics or topics that garner public interest until they can be properly listed on a meeting notice,” Rush wrote.

Comments (21)
Posted by: OnsetTogether | Apr 28, 2018 08:35

Elsewhere the Superintendent stated the portables would be used as much as possible for offices. $600k offices, better than classrooms, but let the administrators double up! Let them try a taste of the cubicle world other workers live in. Boston has 5 in one school room to save $ and use the space available for instruction.

Mrs. Pratt, if you are truly not in favor please have the courage of conviction to vote "no."

Anyone can file a "formal" open meeting complaint, keep an eagle eye out. Kudos Mr. Flaherty.



Posted by: youshouldknow | Apr 28, 2018 09:12

Wondering where this is all headed now that the Superintendent has managed to close four school buildings in four years: West, Cooperative, East and Minot. The school year will start with the fifth Middle School principal since she's been here. When you keep moving things around, people don't tend to look at the whole picture, and notice how our district continues to be dismantled.  Kudos to Ms. Morgan for saying enough is enough.



Posted by: bob | Apr 28, 2018 09:40

YOUSHOULDKNOW,You forgot the Everette School,on Gibbs Ave., that housed the School Administration Offices,that moved over to the Muti Center Building..And yes to Ms.Morgan...



Posted by: Duffman | Apr 28, 2018 15:16

People forget it took 10 years for the voters to agree to renovate the middle school. I refuse to approve a new school to be built. This town can't even find a place for us to dump brush and I'm supposed to trust them to build an overpriced elementary school?



Posted by: Duffman | Apr 28, 2018 15:17

People forget it took 10 years for the voters to agree to renovate the middle school. I refuse to approve a new school to be built. This town can't even find a place for us to dump brush and I'm supposed to trust them to build an overpriced elementary school?



Posted by: Curiouscat | Apr 28, 2018 17:10

I honestly can't approve a new school right now either.  I still feel the town should have voted to approve a new school before closing Minot.  How much are all these designs and studies costing and that will be money out the window if a new school is rejected.  The five vacant schools are eyesores due to neglect.  I pity the next person to fill McMillian's job although I'm sure we'll offer them big bucks to straighten out this mess.  Hopefully we'll be looking for a new superintendent soon as well.  This one has shown me absoutely nothing!!  Thank you Mary Morgan for your care and concerns.  I could see the disappointment on your face last night and a big kudos to whoever that parent was for telling it like it is.  Too bad more parents didn't follow suit.



Posted by: Fortywhat2 | Apr 29, 2018 08:47

I can not believe they have decided it’s a good idea to mix 3rd graders with 7th graders and 8th with 12th and to cut 30 positions!  Our children are learning many things way too early now they will learn things, that we’d prefer they didn’t know, much younger... yay Wareham, NOT! This will be the 5th school they’ve closed.  So tell me if I’m missing something here but if you look back on the education these children were receiving prior to the school closing vs today ... it sucks, pardon my language.  I’m sorry but 50 years old is not old for a building that has been maintained.  It seems that town official are all about just let it deteriorate and throw it away.  I’m beginning to believe that its not only true for buildings but education as well.  Our children (I no longer have children in the school system) are suffering because the school department has decided it’s better to close schools and cut positions rather than living within the budget.  Spend $600,000 for portable class rooms that will deteriorate faster than a building and put children in a lousy, unsafe learning environment.  With what’s going on in schools today wouldn’t you think being in a building with all the other students with promote a safer environment thru unity vs being off in a portable building off to the side?  Talk about feeling excluded.  I don’t care how pretty they are.

So they are going to put the vote out to tear down Minot, build a new building and close Decas once new building is complete.  So we will close school #6.  There is already issues with the “new” high. School because of lack of proper maintenance.  Oh yeah,  I forgot we don’t have the money to maintain our schools.  Maybe an outside agency should be brought in to teach the town how to live within their means... maybe they should audit the books and see where all our tax dollars are going.  We seem to be giving up more from year to year.

 

What happens when a new school is voted down because no one wants to have their taxes go up.  Some people can’t affors their taxes to go up.  There are people that are struggling with the water and sewerage betterment’s because they are retired living on a fixed income.  Wareham is becoming a more than less desirable place to live.  We no longer even maintain our beaches, tourism was always important in town because tourists spend $$$.  What does Wareham have to offer to pull these people in.

Something needs to change and closing schools, raising taxes and building new schoools is not the answer.



Posted by: Andrea Smith | Apr 29, 2018 12:25

Fortywhat2 - Regarding the following school-closing related quote taken from your above comment:


"I’m sorry but 50 years old is not old for a building that has been maintained."


Part of the problem with the school might be the maintenance the school received over 50 years.


As for the realignment of grades and any potential it might hold for exposing children to negative social behavior, I’m sure the teachers and staff will make every effort possible to plan classroom configuration and student interaction so that it does not result in negative social exposure. Which is a lot more than can be said for the negative social exposure children can experience when left to view TV and browse the internet without parental monitoring.


That said, I still don’t think Minot should have been closed at this time.

 




Posted by: thkng60@yahoo.com | Apr 30, 2018 05:57

Fix the Minot school, it will be a lot cheaper than tearing it down and rebuilding a new one.It is only about fifty years old. Building a new school is a BIG NO vote from me, and it is a no vote from just about everyone I know. This school is not disposable. Fix it.



Posted by: Fortywhat2 | Apr 30, 2018 06:37

Andrea I agree 100 % with your comment about the negative social exposure with the use of electronics.  I think it’s a shame, people should not be having children if they don’t want to be parents, that’s another issue in itself.  I am sure the teachers will go out of their way to make the students feel comfortable and included but... The students will still be in portable classrooms.  Portable classrooms would be fine if the were used while Minot is being repaired on Minot property.  SHAME ON WHOEVER IS RESPONSIBLE FOR NOT MAINTAINING THE SCHOOL.  Another option would be to use the multi service center building as a school again and put those people back in town hall. I think that building is over 50 years old... I guess that’s how maintaining a building works.



Posted by: Steve Holmes | Apr 30, 2018 08:32

A short 20 minute ride and a few phone calls to New Bedford School Committee may have been a planning option. They have recently built several new schools. From what i saw they used the same site to continue teaching while the new school was built. Could be an option.

What is troubling to me is, voting to close a school when a new school has not been approved, and given our voting history, is very likely not to be approved. Then what??

Maybe a debt exclusion would pass, but as stated above there are many hands reaching into the taxpayers pockets. And if there is nothing left to take, the voters will say no. Then what?

I would like to hear what the plan is if the voters say no. Waiting until putting it on a ballot, then pulling on peoples heart strings about the kids needing a school, is not going to work. Then what?? Where is the committee's plan for that option? I am sure they must have one, maybe i missed the story when it was reported. If someone could post that link i would appreciate it. Thanks



Posted by: Peaches0409 | Apr 30, 2018 12:21

First of all, closing of Minot has nothing to do with a new school being approved. Please educate yourselves before saying such things. Minot is closing because the revenues in this town are awful! Period, end of story. If we kept Minot open we would have to cut so many classroom teachers we would have 30+ kids in a classroon. The school committee had no choice!

Second, the new school build, if approved would be a debt exclusion not a prop 2 1/2 override. We have already been approved to received 70% back in grant money. There is NO WAY to fix Minot and eventually Decas for that amount of money.

The misinformation being put out is troubling. No wonder people can't get behind this new school build. People have no clue what they are talking about!



Posted by: Spherebreaker | Apr 30, 2018 13:17

Minot can be fixed and should be. There is no reason that it should have reached the condition its in. The very people complaining about it are the same that demanded extra teachers, extra teachers aids, extra principles, special classes and classrooms from trouble making kids that should be grabbed by the hair and made to conform  and short bus rides to other schools for kids to get something other than a PUBLIC education we are mandated to provide. I don't want to hear that a school cant be fixed, that's BS. Its about building another overpriced, over built and needless school that the school department can ruin. NO OVER RIDE, NO DEBT EXCLUSION , NO NEW SCHOOL



Posted by: cranky pants | Apr 30, 2018 13:28

I think the real answer is many of us don't have golden children in the sinking Wareham school system, or perhaps some of us are on fixed budgets so we don't care to see the extra spending increases.

Also, if you think that closing Minot won't force leverage on building the new school then you're just as blind as the clueless people you speak of. Have you ever seen the inside of any establishments that have sat shuddered for a year or two ? Vandalism, rodents, insects and even more feverishly... Mold will set in. Then guess what ??? We have to tear the school down for health reasons. I imagine this has already been well thought out though, so I'm just speaking into a fan at this point.

There's no healthy outcome, but clearly we should be able to have buildings last more than 50 years.



Posted by: Curiouscat | Apr 30, 2018 16:00

Forty something...not sure who is responsible for maintaing the building.  I mean there are custodians to keep the school clean on the inside but being over fifty years old I think a few issues would be asbestos, not enough outlets in the rooms etc.  I'm sure these things could be fixed cheaper than building a new school.  I believe the portables at Minot were torn down due to mold issues and I have to think the ones at Decas have to have similar issues.  Has anyone really walked through Minot lately to see what the problems are?  I would be curious to hear what an "outsider" thinks.



Posted by: Peaches0409 | May 01, 2018 09:24

Cranky, Minot already has rodents and plenty of them. The also have mold, and lets not forget about the asbestos. Sphere, I guess Minot could be fixed but it would cost more than building a new school because we have already been approved for a 70% reimbursement for a new build. Minot would pretty much need to be gutted. We can kiss that money goodbye if we try to fix Minot. Next in line to be fixed would be Decas at 50+ years old. People in this town would rather bite off their nose to spite their face.



Posted by: Doctor Deekas | May 01, 2018 12:30

I didn't ever read that the State would reimburse the Town for 70% of the building. That was for the STUDY. For the $86 million building, a previous article in March said the Town would pay $37 million of that, so that's a 57% reimbursement by the State.



Posted by: Andrea Smith | May 01, 2018 13:56

Doctor Deekas, my understanding of the Massachusetts School Building reimbursement is that it starts at 31 percent, and then depending upon a number of qualifying factors each with a value of between 1 percent and 5 percent, the reimbursement can be advanced from 31 percent up to a possible 70 percent based upon how many qualifying factors are met.

 

Of concern is the fact that to the best of my knowledge Wareham would be "on the hook" for $86 million until the building was completed (approximately two years), at which point a reimbursement for the percentage set by the building authority would be forth coming.

 

Also of concern is the tendency for such projects to have cost overruns, some of which can run into the millions, a result of a number of potential issues, among them but not limited to: unanticipated construction problems and price increases in materials.



Posted by: Peaches0409 | May 01, 2018 20:12

Dr, the 70% is based on the school itself. There are components that are reflected in the total price that are not eligible for reimbursement. I would suspect that would be the grounds around the school. For instance, the parking lot, and athletic fields or playgrounds that would be on the property.



Posted by: Andrea Smith | May 02, 2018 11:22

Massachusetts School Building Authority (“MSBA”) Reimbursement Rate Calculation

http://www.massschoolbuildings.org/sites/default/files/edit-contentfiles/Documents/Guidelines_Policies/Reimbursement-Rate-Calculation-UPDATE.pdf

A few weeks ago I read a list online of costs not covered by MSBA, but I could not refind the list I had read today. I believe the costs not covered in new school building projects are furnishings, equipment, athletic fields, playgrounds landscaping. Link below might help those who wish further information.

MSBA Project Scope and Budget Agreement

http://www.massschoolbuildings.org/sites/default/files/edit-contentfiles/Documents/Contracts_Procurement_Forms/Agreements/PSBA_Template_6_13_12.pdf



Posted by: Peaches0409 | May 02, 2018 11:31

Thank you Andrea, I knew that not everything was covered by the 70% rate.



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