The History of the Beal School
Built in 1922, the Beal School is located on 3.5 acres in the center of town and named for the late Major Howard W. Beal, a U.S. Army doctor who died in France during World War I. The school first served as a junior/senior high school. The school then became an elementary school in 1958 when the new junior/senior high school was built. In 1987, all of the town’s kindergarten students attended Beal. Presently, Beal School is an early childhood education center, housing three sections of ‘overflow’ first grade classes from Floral Street School, eight half day kindergarten classes and six tuition based full day kindergarten classes.
Challenges of the BuildingThe building has been well maintained and is a vibrant and energetic place for learning, however, the building’s structural and infrastructure systems face numerous problems:
- No working fire suppression system
- No working mechanical ventilation system to allow for fresh air from the outside into the building
- Plumbing and toilet facilities are inadequate and undersized; toilet facilities are not ADA compliant and challenging for students with mobility issues
- HVAC is original to the building and at the end of its life; the boiler was replaced in 1981
- The roof, last replaced in 1988, is due for replacement
- The electrical system was minimally upgraded in 2001 to allow for the installation of an elevator
- Original single glazed non-thermal windows are not energy efficient and a major source of heat loss
- Congested traffic flow due to inadequate access and parking; parent pick up cars back up into the street due to insufficient space; parking is hindered and the parking lot is difficult to maneuver
- Insufficient technology infrastructure to support on-line learning and access to technology as compared to other schools in the district
- Lack of appropriate spaces for special education, English language learners, art, music and media with instruction taking place in converted storage closets and the basement; the cafeteria is undersized and there is not enough space throughout the district to offer full day kindergarten to all who are interested
A Second Chance for State FundingIn March 2014, the School Committee and Board of Selectmen declined an invitation from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) for the Beal School to enter into the eligibility period due to the operational override question that was under consideration at that time. In June 2014, the town voted by a 2:1 margin to support the operational override. In April 2015, Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Joseph Sawyer, with the support of the School Committee and Board of Selectmen, submitted a Statement of Interest to the MSBA for the Beal School. The MSBA accepted the Beal School into the eligibility period and moved the school up on the priority list due to the severity of its building, infrastructure and system deficiencies. In April 2016, the Beal Building Committee was formed by a vote at a Special Town Meeting. Its members are:
- James Kane, Selectman and Chairperson
- Kevin Mizikar, Town Manager
- Dr. Joseph Sawyer, Superintendent of Schools
- Patrick Collins, Assistant Superintendent of Operations and Administration
- Robert Cox, Superintendent of Public Buildings
- Sandra Fryc, School Committee
- Christian Girardi, Principal of the Beal School
- Erin Boucher, Esq., Community Representative, background in Construction Law
- John Masiello, Community Representative, General Contractor Public and Private Projects
Researching the OptionsThe Beal Building Committee prepared the feasibility study in accordance with MSBA guidelines. They were required to research multiple site locations throughout town and evaluate three building options: a no build (i.e. straight renovation), a new building on the existing Beal site, and a new building on an alternate location. Renovating the existing building, given the age and masonry construction of the structure, would not meet the sizing criteria set by the MSBA for classrooms, the cafeteria, gymnasium and specialized learning spaces. The MSBA was clear that it would not reimburse a project that did not address and correct the major problems that put the Beal School on the priority list. Given the size of the lot (3.5 acres) and the congested location in the center of town, it became apparent that designing a new building on the existing site would also not meet MSBA requirements. The architects advised that approximately 15 acres are needed to accommodate a 790 student K-4 elementary school, including appropriate outdoor spaces such as a playground and athletic fields, adequate parking for school days and community use, and the ability to separate bus traffic from parent drop off and pick up lines. Additionally, the district would need to rent space to house students during the construction process. The new build option would take approximately 2 years to complete with students remaining in the current building. The classrooms would be appropriately sized, meeting the needs of all learners. Because the new building would contain updated systems, it would be energy-efficient and allow for parity in technology use across elementary schools. The Building Committee evaluated 31 potential sites throughout Shrewsbury. Given the overcrowding at Floral Street School, the committee recognized that a site south of Route 9 would be preferable. Each site was carefully considered during a public hearing and the full list of sites can be viewed here. (insert this link) https://shrewsburyma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/3522/Beal-Early-Childhood-Center-Site-Evaluations The Building Committee narrowed the site location down to a portion of the former Allen Farm property (Centech North), which is town owned, and the former Glavin Center property on Lake Avenue, which needs to be purchased from the state. The architects created site plans for both locations, and after careful consideration, the Building Committee voted on April 30, 2018 to move ahead with the Preferred Schematic Design for the Glavin Center location. https://shrewsburyma.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Minutes/_04302018-1564
Why is a new building the best answer for the taxpayers of Shrewsbury?
- It provides a long-term solution. The MSBA placed the Beal School on the priority list because of its overcrowding and building system deficiencies and infrastructure needs, such as HVAC, electrical, plumbing, and handicap accessibility. This proposed new K-4 school meets the criteria for state participation in funding.
- It is fiscally responsible. The Beal Building Committee, School Department and School Committee balanced the town’s fiscal realities and the students’ educational needs and proposed a plan that will meet both.
- It is a shared investment. Shrewsbury will be reimbursed for approximately 34% of the project if approved by the voters in the fall. If the vote fails, it is unlikely that the Beal School will be invited into the MSBA program for a third time. Shrewsbury taxpayers will be responsible for repairing the aging building alone – which is not a long-term solution.
- It benefits the whole community. The new building will offer more meeting space for PTO and civic activities, with playing fields, more adequate space for Parks and Recreation, and updated facilities for community events.
- It is a building for the future. It is the best long-term investment for the town, allowing for modern, environmentally friendly, and sustainable building systems. The building will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) 4 compliant. For more information about the sustainability of the building click here (insert this link) https://shrewsburyma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/3897/2018-02-26-Beal-Sustainability-Workshop-1
- It is a debt exclusion. A debt exclusion is like a mortgage; it has a beginning and an end date. Typically, new buildings have a 20-year payment plan, with the first year costing the most, and the last year costing the least. By the time we need to start paying for the Beal School, debt related to Shrewsbury High School, Parker Road Preschool and renovations and Spring Street School will be coming off the debt service.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question 1: What is the history of the Beal School?
The Beal School was built in 1922 as a junior/senior high school. The school became an elementary school in 1958 and is presently an early childhood center with three first grade classes, eight half day kindergarten classes, and six full day tuition-based full day kindergarten classes. The first-grade students attending the Beal School reside in the Floral Street School district, but due to overcrowding are unable to attend first grade in their neighborhood school.
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Question 2: What challenges currently exist with the building itself?
No major renovations have been done to the Beal School building since it was built in 1922. The windows, exterior walls, and HVAC system are original to the building. The boiler was replaced in 1981. The roof was replaced 30 years ago (in 1988) and the electrical systems were minimally upgraded in 2001 when an elevator was added. There is no working mechanical ventilation system to bring in fresh air and no sprinkler system. There is asbestos in the tile flooring, and the out of date restroom facilities are challenging for those with mobility needs. Infrastructure constraints limit access to technology when compared with other schools in the district. The cafeteria is undersized for the population and there is inadequate space to offer full day kindergarten to all students. Appropriate spaces for special education, art, music, and media do not exist and instruction is currently taking place in the basement. There is inadequate parking and the space for parent pick up/drop off and buses is extremely congested.
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Question 3: Why can’t we just fix the existing issues?
Based on student enrollment data and growth projections, and after holding two public hearings and conducting a town-wide public survey, the School Committee voted to pursue plans for a K-4 school on October 25, 2017. The proposed 790 student elementary school will relieve overcrowding and provide parity across all elementary schools. It also includes the needed classroom space for the District to offer universal full day kindergarten for all students. The Beal Building Committee assessed renovating the existing Beal School determined that the site is too small for a 790 student K-4 elementary school.
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Question 4: How was the size of the new project established?
The size of the project was established using MSBA guidelines and enrollment projections from the state in addition the town’s own enrollment projections. The MSBA wants to make sure that any school they invest in is appropriately sized for the community and takes future enrollment into account.
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Question 5: What happens to our students during the construction project?
Because the new school will be located at the former Glavin property, our students will remain in the current Beal building during construction.
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Question 6: Who makes the ultimate decision as to the state funding of our new school?
The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) ultimately makes the decision about state funding for the new school. The MSBA invited Shrewsbury to bring the Beal School project forward because of its overcrowding and building system deficiencies. The MSBA required the Beal Building Committee to conduct a feasibility study, which required them to research three options: a no build (i.e. straight renovation), a new building on the existing site, and a new building on a different site. The MSBA was clear that it would not reimburse a project that did not address the major problems that put the Beal School on the priority list in the first place.
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Question 7: What is the time line for what will happen next in the process?
The MSBA lays out the process that must be followed. The Schematic Design phase has started, during which the architectural design plans and cost estimates for the building will become more detailed and specific. The MSBA will review the schematic design and vote approval by the end of October. A Special Town Meeting will be scheduled in October to authorize the Town to seek the financing needed to fund the school building project prior to the town wide ballot vote anticipated to occur in November.
With a successful ballot initiative, construction may begin in the summer or fall of 2019, with the school opening in the fall of 2021.
Question 8: Why should we undertake a large capital improvement project such as this?
- Building a new K-4 school is fiscally responsible as it is the most cost-effective and educationally sound option before the Beal Building Committee.
- The new building will allow for modern, environmentally friendly, and sustainable building systems that will serve our community for decades.
- It will be funded through a debt exclusion which has a beginning and an end date. Typically, new buildings have a 20-year payment plan, with the first year costing the most, and the last year costing the least. By the time we need to start paying for this building, the high school, Spring Street School, and Parker Road renovations will be coming off the debt service.
- MSBA partners with Massachusetts communities to support the design and construction of educationally-appropriate, flexible, sustainable, and cost-effective public-school facilities.
- MSBA reimbursement covers a portion of construction costs so Shrewsbury taxpayers alone will not bear the total cost of the school project.
Question 9: What general estimates do we have for the cost of the project and what will be the town’s portion of those funds?
The Beal Building Committee selected the Construction Manager at Risk model for the project. This means the project costs are capped and any overages are the responsibility of the construction company and not the town. Both the Sherwood Middle School and the Public Library were built under Construction Manager at Risk. The Construction Manager at Risk model will provide an additional 1% reimbursement point from the MSBA.
The estimated cost of the project is $94.4M and includes purchasing the land at Glavin, demolition of the existing structures on the property, construction costs, and road improvements. The Beal Building Committee anticipated a nominal rate of 54.86% reimbursement (applied to eligible project costs), which results in a lower effective rate of reimbursement (35.27%) after taking into account project costs that are not eligible for MSBA participation. The architects, Lamoureux & Pagano are currently working on the Schematic Design phase of the project. Total cost estimates and MSBA reimbursement rate will be better defined at the end of August 2018.
Question 10: Why was Beal made a priority by the state for funding?
Beal School was identified as a priority by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) for acceptance into their program because, in their assessment, despite being well maintained, the building and its structural systems face numerous problems and overcrowding.
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Question 11: Why do some of the required spaces in the school exceed the sizing guidelines set by the MSBA?
The MSBA puts forth guidelines and minimum requirements for the building design. Some components of the design may be ineligible for reimbursement, however the MSBA may determine that certain elements are reimbursable depending on the demonstration of educational need or relevance to the educational program.
- The design of the new building takes into account the educational program of the Shrewsbury Public Schools and school and community use that will take place outside of the regular school day/year. For example, the MSBA template allocates 6,000 square feet for an elementary school gymnasium. In order to accommodate all 790 students for school-wide assemblies, it is desirable to have a gymnasium similar in size to Floral Street School which is 7,000 square feet. In this case, the MSBA will share the cost of funding up to its allocated size and the town will be responsible for costs incurred beyond that scope.
- It is a goal of the Shrewsbury Public Schools to educate our special education students within our district whenever possible, reducing the need for outside placements and allowing students to go to school in their hometown with their peers, which can also be more cost-effective. In order to achieve this goal, special education spaces in the new building exceed MSBA guidelines.
- New mandates around educating English Language Learners (ELL) and a growing population of students requiring these services creates a need for specialized educational spaces not accounted for in the MSBA’s guidelines. Because Shrewsbury Public Schools adheres to the state requirements for educating ELL students, appropriate spaces are included in the design of the new building.
Question 12: How is a debt exclusion different from an operational override?
A debt exclusion, which would be used to fund the new school, is like a mortgage; it has a beginning and an end date. Typically, new buildings have a 20-year payment plan, with the first year costing the most, and the last year costing the least. The amount of an operational override, once approved, becomes a permanent part of the levy limit and increases by 2 ½ percent each year after its acceptance. The funding mechanism for the new school building would not be an operational override.
Question 13: With voter approval, when would the construction begin and end?
With a successful vote in the fall, construction could begin in the summer or fall of 2019. An estimate of when construction would end will be better known at the end of August.
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Question 14: How do we know that the project will be done in the most cost-effective manner?
The Building Committee chose Construction Manager at Risk for this project. This is the same model used for Sherwood and the public library. In the past, the Design-Bid-Build model was used, meaning the project was put out to bid and the lowest bidder was selected. This process was used for all past building projects including the Oak Middle School renovation, Floral Street School, and the high school.
Advantages to Construction Manager at Risk include:
- Project delivery system that allows the town to select the construction manager based on qualifications, experience and proposed team rather than lowest cost, which leads to better project controls.
- Design phase assistance with budgeting, site logistics and constructability results in the ability to address challenges early.
- Early cost estimates and feedback to help the design process results in a more accurate cost model.
- Fast tracked schedule/early bids are possible- this saves money by reducing the time required to complete the construction project.
- This delivery method entails a commitment by the Construction Manager to deliver the project within a Guaranteed Maximum Price.
- Team approach to the project that involves the town, the Owner’s Project Manager (OPM), and the designer.
Question 15: This will be the largest investment in a construction project in the town’s history. Why is it more than Sherwood and the public library?
Sherwood was built during the recession when construction prices were low. When construction started on the library, the recession was beginning to ease and costs were beginning to rise. The current economy is strong and construction costs have risen significantly. The MSBA’s reimbursement of construction costs have not kept pace with the escalating costs of construction/inflation, resulting in a lower rate of reimbursement on this project.
Looking back at recent projects and working out the cost in today’s dollars shows the following:
- Floral Street School: construction started in 1996, cost $9,898,050. Today it would cost $51,030,000.
- Shrewsbury High School: construction started in 2000, cost $43,207,000. Today it would cost $160,987,500.
- Sherwood Middle School: construction started in 2011, cost $43,947,705. Today it would cost $78,975,000.
Question 16: If the project fails to be voted on by the electorate, what happens next? What back up plans do we have?
- The town will be unable to proceed with the project without voter approval. If the town does not approve the debt exclusion to build a new elementary school and it withdraws from the MSBA program, the town will be solely responsible for the full cost of any needed repairs or renovations to the existing Beal School.
- It is important to note that due to the Proposition 2.5 override in 2014, the town withdrew its application to the MSBA for the Beal School. A second application was filed and in March of 2016 the MSBA voted to invite Shrewsbury into the eligibility period. If the town votes down the project, there is no guarantee it will be invited back into the MSBA process for a third time due to the high number of cities and town in the Commonwealth seeking admittance to the state’s school building process.
- Base repairs or renovation to the existing Beal School will not alleviate overcrowding throughout our elementary schools and full day kindergarten will remain an option only available to a limited number of students through a lottery process.
Question 17: If someone wants to get involved and help get the project through, who can they contact?
April 3, 2015
Sept. 28, 2017
Oct. 12, 2017
Nov. 2, 2017
April 27, 2018
May 5, 2018