Foster School proposal design stage progressing; community meeting planned for this Thursday

February 8, 2022 By Carol Britton Meyer

School Building Committee Vice-Chair Ray Estes presented a progress report about the proposal to either renovate/build a new Foster School to the School Committee Monday night, including the preferred design renderings.

The proposal is moving through the Massachusetts School Building Authority process, with the hopes that the MSBA will fund a significant portion of the project.

The proposal calls for a three-story building that will feature a pre-K offering and robust arts and music programs that will also be the new location for the before- and after-school Kids in Action program.

"This site is near the water," Estes said. "The town has a nautical history, and we want to incorporate that into the design as much as possible."

The committee has taken into consideration the desires and recommendations heard during visioning sessions that also included discussions about the curriculum and related space needs.

There will be plenty of play space for recess and community use, three music rooms, a gymnasium featuring a two-sided stage,  possible outdoor classroom space, a rain garden, indoor and outdoor community and green space, potential solar panels on the roof, a rain garden, a METCO office, and 131 parking spaces.

"Some of the additional space will not be partially reimbursable. It's a hard choice," Estes said. "We're still in ongoing negotiations with the MSBA as to what they will reimburse and what they won't."

Available data indicates that by 2070 half of the site will potentially be under water, so the building will be raised above the floodplain elevation so that won't be an issue, according to Estes.

"Over the past six months we have been working through the feasibility phase, doing a lot of exploration of the site, wetlands flagging, and providing reports to the MSBA in an effort to substantiate our belief that this is a viable site to develop for a new elementary school, and we're really excited," Estes said. "I believe we're past the threshold of convincing the MSBA. Our meeting last week went well, and we're looking forward I think to board approval in early March of our preferred option."

This is an "exquisite, natural site that our architectural team is excited to redevelop," he said.

Community meeting Thursday
A remote meeting about the Foster School proposal will be held this Thursday, Feb. 10, at 7 p.m., hosted by the School Building Committee and attended by project architects, the Foster PTO and larger Foster community, and other interested citizens.

"This meeting will provide a glimpse of some of the design proposals we have been working on in the last six months, to share our progress and other information, and to answer questions," Estes said. Check the town website for details.

A warrant article will be drafted for this Spring's Annual Town Meeting asking for interim funding, subject to MSBA project approval "so we can begin the fine design development work," Estes explained.

A Special Town Meeting will be held next Fall for the purpose of asking voter approval of full construction funding. That figure will be announced at a later date.

If all goes as planned, construction could begin in the Spring of 2023, followed by the opening of the new building in 2024.

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