Hingham Elementary School Project FAQ
1. What is the New Elementary School Building Project?
William L. Foster Elementary School was built in 1951 and has had two additions/renovations in 1957 and 1974. An additional $3.5 million was invested to make various improvements between 2008 and 2010. Though the building has been well-maintained over the years, the outdated mechanical systems make it increasingly challenging to operate and maintain and the many interior classrooms and small communal spaces have a significant negative impact on the ability to deliver an educational program designed to meet the needs of students in the 21st century.
2. What is the New Elementary School Building Committee?
The 2017 School Building Committee or “New Elementary School Building Committee” as it is often called (“SBC”) was established by Hingham voters at the 2017 Annual Town Meeting. The establishment of a School Building Committee is a requirement to participate in the MSBA school building grant programs. A School Building Committee is responsible for all aspects of a school building project, as required by MSBA statutes and regulations. The SBC is directly responsible for exploring the feasibility of a potential school building project and oversight of design and construction work associated with the preferred option chosen by the SBC and supported by the MSBA.
3. What is the MSBA?
The Massachusetts School Building Authority (“MSBA”) is a quasi-independent government authority created to reform the process of funding capital improvement projects in the Commonwealth’s public schools. The MSBA strives to work with local communities to create affordable, sustainable, and energy efficient schools across Massachusetts. Additional information about the MSBA may be found on the MSBA website.
4. What is the benefit of working with the MSBA?
The funding that the MSBA contributes to school projects is significant. The source of MSBA funding is 1 cent of the sales tax charged in Massachusetts. For a project of this scale, the Town can expect a reimbursement in the tens of millions of dollars. For 2022, when the Foster project expects to receive final MSBA approval, the MSBA base reimbursement rate has been set at 36.89%. The actual reimbursement the Town receives will be determined once the project scope and budget is approved, taking into account any additional reimbursement points that may be available in connection with the pursuit of LEED certification, which confirms green and sustainable design and operational features, and an approved maintenance plan. The actual grant reimbursement is also offset by any costs deemed ineligible or that exceed the MSBA’s existing thresholds.
5. How is our community included in this process?
The SBC is committed to transparency and inclusiveness in how it oversees this project on behalf of Hingham residents. For the Foster project to be successful, it requires community input, support, and approval. The SBC, working with our Owner’s Project Manager (“OPM”), PMA Consultants, and our Architect/Designer, Raymond Design Associates (“RDA”), has and will continue to reach out to the community as work progresses through the Schematic Design and Design Development phases of the project. There will be many opportunities for parents, educators and community members to provide critical input that will help inform the design of the new Foster Elementary School. Please continue to monitor this site and the SBC Facebook page for project news, updates and community outreach events.
6. What are the different phases of the project and how long will each phase, including construction, take?
With the completion of the Feasibility Phase in January 2022, Schematic Design work has begun and continued into the late Spring of 2022. The goal of the SBC is to pursue an aggressive schedule during the planning and design phases so that a new school can be built and opened in September 2024. A warrant article passed at the April Town Meeting for interim funding to complete design development and preparation of an early site work bid package pending MSBA Board approval. MSBA approval of the schematic design, scope and budget for the project is anticipated on August 31, 2022. Following that approval, a special Town Meeting will be held in November for consideration of a warrant article seeking to fund construction costs. If the proposed schedule remains on track, site preparation could begin during early winter 2022-2023, with vertical construction work beginning in late spring after a second round of bidding. Once the new school is substantially complete, the existing Foster school will be demolished and site work including parking and recreational space will be developed during the fall of 2024 and into 2025
7. What is the value of rebuilding the Foster School to people who either don’t live in the Foster district or don’t have children in the Hingham Public Schools?
Investing in our schools benefits the entire community. Community engagement is a shared responsibility in raising the next generation and according to the US Department of Education, school building infrastructure components are crucial for learning. Additionally, schools provide public common space, accessible for public meetings, voting, emergency shelters, and are available for use by community groups and organizations for programs and events held after school hours. The Foster school is, and will continue to be, an anchor for the Crow Point neighborhood and the greater north Hingham community. Good public schools, like we have in Hingham, are valuable for more than just the curriculum they deliver. They help sustain property values and entice new families to join the community. Finally, capital investments in buildings and infrastructure create lasting benefits to a community and to society in general, particularly when those investments help close achievement gaps and help bring members of a community together.
The School Building Committee (SBC) recognizes that there is a need for space for various community events, including athletic contests, artistic performances and large group assemblies. The proposed building design will include a section of the school that will be available for public use during non-school hours. It includes a large gym with bleachers and a cafeteria with a stage for concerts, performances and other presentations., The site will include an athletic field, softball diamond, tennis courts and an accessible playground, all of which will be available to the public during non-school hours.
8. When will the construction start and end? When would students be in the new school?
The current plan is for construction to begin in the Spring of 2023 and continue until August of 2024. The goal is for students and staff to be in the new building in September 2024. Demolition of the current school will occur in the Summer of 2024 and additional site work will continue into early 2025.
9. My child is at Foster. Will they need to move to a different school during construction?
No, students will remain in the current building during construction until the new school is open, which is anticipated to be in September 2024. Limiting disruption by allowing students and staff to remain in the current building is the same approach that was used when Hingham built the new middle school.
10. What will happen to the athletic fields and tennis courts during construction?
During construction, the existing athletic fields and tennis courts will be unavailable as they will be part of the construction zone. Play space and play structures will be relocated to other parts of the school property to allow for recess and other activities. After the new school is occupied and the site work is complete, the property will include an athletic field, softball diamond, and tennis courts, which will be available to the public during non-school hours.
11. Was a traffic study done? How will traffic be managed during construction?
Yes, a traffic study was done in the Fall of 2021. During construction, a separate access drive will be added to the left of the school for all construction and emergency vehicles. The construction area will be fenced off and secured at all times.
12. How was the enrollment number determined? Does the new enrollment number allow for growth?
The SBC assisted with an enrollment study undertaken by the school department in 2018 using a well-known consultant, New England School Development Council (NESDEC). Using the completed enrollment study, the MSBA performed its own independent study resulting in a design enrollment of up to 605 students. Currently there are 419 students at Foster, which is down approximately 70 students over the past year due to the COVID pandemic. The allowance for an anticipated growing enrollment will accommodate additional children who live in the Foster School district and will allow Hingham Public Schools to meet its goal of expanding its Pre-K and Special Education programs. Additional details about these proposed programs are provided in the Education Plan, a required document that was prepared in connection with the MSBA process.
13. What is the potential base reimbursement rate from the MSBA for this project? How was the rate determined?
The anticipated base reimbursement rate for this project is 36.89%, which was newly set for 2022, the year the MSBA project funding agreement is expected to be executed. According to the MSBA, reimbursement rates for MSBA approved, eligible school construction and renovation projects are calculated pursuant to a formula that is established by Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 70B section 10 (M.G.L. c. 70B § 10). The formula takes various socioeconomic factors of the Town into account to determine its base reimbursement rate.
14. How will this new building support Hingham’s climate action planning efforts and the Town’s goal of reducing our fossil fuel use and carbon emissions?
The SBC is planning to build an all-electric building that will meet the needs of students and our community for decades to come in an effort to achieve the Town’s sustainable development goals . The SBC’s commitment in this area supports the Hingham Climate Action Planning Committee’s goal of significantly reducing the Town’s carbon emissions by 2040. The proposed building design is situated facing south to maximize the sun’s positive impact. This positioning enables the architect to incorporate a design that includes a solar-ready roof and several south facing windows and light-wells to carry natural light to all levels of the building. The SBC has already engaged with members of the Climate Action Planning Committee, Hingham Municipal Lighting Plant, the Hingham Net-Zero group and the Conservation department to help us ensure our school design achieves sustainability goals while protecting precious natural resources that are prevalent at the Foster site.
15. I understand that Foster School is next to wetlands and in a flood zone. What will be done to mitigate the risk of flooding and protect the environmentally sensitive areas surrounding the school?
Foster School is located on a thirty-nine acre parcel of land, most of which consists of various ecosystems, which will provide a rich outdoor learning experience for students. The site also includes several constraints, including wetlands, a steep hillside, tidal marsh and flood zone area. The SBC believes that its preferred option, chosen from among 10 different possibilities after months of consideration, is the best option for taking full advantage of the natural elements of the site while also minimizing the impact to the surrounding natural areas. The proposed design faces south, which takes advantage of the southern sun exposure and views of the marsh. The preferred option chosen by the SBC addresses the projected 2070 flood zone concerns by raising the grade of the Foster School site several feet above the current level of most of the existing site. This raised grade will place the new school above the projected 2070 storm surge flood plain level.