Foster School Update: Potential Designs Under Consideration

Photo by Joshua Ross Photography

November 16, 2021 By Carol Britton Meyer

The proposal to renovate/build a new Foster School is progressing through the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) channels, with the hopes that the MSBA will fund a significant portion of the cost of either option.

School Building Committee Vice Chair Ray Estes provided an update to the School Committee Monday during a remote meeting. "The feasibility work is underway -- environmental consultants are flagging the wetlands, and site investigation is ongoing -- all part of determining what can be done [on the property]," he said. Traffic is another consideration.

Members of the building committee and others involved with the project recently visited a number of elementary schools that are currently in various stages of construction to get some ideas and to hear about how they plan to use their space.

"Then we began looking at eight potential design configurations for the Foster site -- while considering proximity to wetlands -- and discussing the advantages, disadvantages, and challenges [posed by each option]," Estes explained. "These will be narrowed down to four potential site layouts by the end of December, and then a preferred design will be selected to move into the schematic design phase in January."

The recently-developed 500-page required educational program for Foster was presented to the MSBA recently. Estes praised all who were involved in that aspect of the process. "We are hoping for Foster to deliver its existing curriculum along with additional programs that haven't been offered there before due to space issues," he said. These could include designated special education space featuring language-based learning, districtwide professional development space for teachers, a place for pre-K and the Kids in Action program, among others. Nothing has yet been determined should the project become a reality.

Feedback from the MSBA and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will inform the next steps heading into the schematic design phase.

During the winter or next spring, the building committee will engage with the Conservation Commission to determine what they are hoping to accomplish related to the development of the Foster site and what restrictions might be imposed when seeking the required permit(s) from ConCom.

Contingent on MSBA approval of the proposal, a warrant article will be drafted for the Spring 2022 Town Meeting -- or a fall 2022 Special Town Meeting -- asking voter approval of construction funding, a figure that will be announced at a later date.

"Assuming a positive Town Meeting result, the next steps would be design development and refinement, working through cost estimates and value engineering [to try to find ways to reduce costs], and developing the construction documents," Estes said.

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

Estes emphasized that opportunities such as this one "don't come along often."

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