Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Feasibility Study and why are we performing one?
The Maria Weston Chapman Middle School, built nearly 60 years ago, has reached a point that it no longer meets today’s building codes, has structural deficiencies, inefficient and inoperable systems and does not adequately support our educational curriculum. In April of 2015, the Town submitted a Statement of Interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), outlining the building’s deficiencies and project objectives. At the November 9th, 2016 Board of Directors meeting, the MSBA Board voted to issue an invitation to the Town to conduct a feasibility study, which is the MSBA’s initial step in partnering with the Town of Weymouth to investigate these conditions and develop a cost effective, sustainable and educationally appropriate solution to the aging Chapman Middle School. The Weymouth School Building Committee had no preconceived solutions and they, over the last two years have been investigating renovation, renovation and addition, and new construction options, all of which are required by the MSBA process. The MSBA process is rigorous and transparent, and with the approval of the MSBA, the state will provide a grant to support the cost of the project.
How much does the Feasibility Study cost?
The Feasibility Study has a budget of $1 million, broken down as follows:
Owner’s Project Manager: $250,000
Environmental and Site Testing: $100,000
Other/Contingencies: $ 50,000
Funds came from the Town’s general revenue local receipts, which are comprised of such things as building permit and other department fees, Union Point mitigation payments, and excise taxes.
What is the role of the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA)?
The MSBA is the quasi-independent state authority that administers and funds a program of grants for Massachusetts school projects. The MSBA, which has a dedicated revenue stream of one penny of the state’s sales tax, mandates a multi-step rigorous study and approval process. If the preferred project receives the support of the Town, the MSBA will provide Weymouth a grant of up to 56.26% of the eligible design and construction costs.
Is the current Chapman School safe?
Yes. The Administration is confident that the Chapman School is safe for student and staff occupancy until a new building is constructed. While the Chapman School has reached the end of its useful life, the District is closely monitoring the structure and indoor air quality to ensure it is satisfactory at all times.
What options have been studied?
Ten options were evaluated during the Feasibility Study. These included five grade/enrollment configurations, with each having a new construction and addition/renovation option. More than twenty committee meetings and public forums were held, where the committee and consultants focused on the following criteria when evaluating and developing the options: educational benefits, educational parity, transitions, sustainability, collateral projects, and project cost. The five configurations explored were:
Option A: Grades 7 – 8 at a Chapman school, 985 students
(This is the current configuration)
Option B: Grades 6 – 8 at a new or addition/renovation Chapman school, 745 Students
(with Adams servings as a second grades 6 – 8 school with 725 students)
Option C: Grades 5 – 8 at a new or addition/renovation Chapman school, 1230 Students
(with Adams servings as a second grades 5 – 8 school with 725 students)
Option D: Grades 6 – 8 at a new or addition/renovation Chapman school, 1470 students
(Adams would be converted to a primary (K-5) school)
Option E: Grades 5 – 8 at a new or addition/renovation Chapman School, 1955 students
Option E was quickly eliminated for lack of MSBA support. Options A, B and C were included in the original study enrollment agreement. On September 8, 2017, The Town of Weymouth submitted a letter requesting the addition of study enrollment Option D. The request was reviewed by the MSBA and approved on December 18, 2017.
What is the Preferred Option?
Option D, a new 261,447 square foot two-story school with renovated gymnasium/athletics spaces serving 1,470 middle school students in grades 6 thru 8. In the new school, classrooms will be clustered for cross-disciplinary learning around collaborative, project-based learning areas where students and faculty can work together in both small and large groups.
This preferred option offers:
- Forty-five general classrooms that meet MSBA size guidelines
- Twenty-one science classrooms
- Thirteen prep rooms
- One ELL standard size classroom
- Twenty small group rooms at 165 square feet each
- Therapeutic Learning Center (TLC)
- A 1,500 square foot band room
- A dedicated chorus room
- A total of four (4) 2,000 square foot labs and associated storage rooms to serve STEM, Project-based Learning, Computer and Technology programs
- A completely renovated 10,000 square foot Gymnasium
- A 2,000 square foot PE alternative space to support health and wellness
- A 4,000 square feet Media Center housing the book collection, providing instructional space and specialists work space
- A new 8,500 square foot Auditorium with 850 seats, a 2,600 square foot stage, controls room, storage room, and dressing rooms
- Outdoor play field and learning spaces
- Full accessibility inside and out
The Preferred Option would necessitate the conversion of the current Adams Middle School to the Town’s ninth elementary school, grades K-5. This would be a Town project with no MSBA reimbursement.
Why not just repair the Chapman School?
The Town and School Administration have made some essential repairs over the years. However, due to the high and growing number of needed repairs, costing millions of dollars, town officials submitted the Statement of Interest to MSBA to study the most cost effective and educationally appropriate solution for the Chapman Middle School.
Built in 1961, the Chapman School faces an array of physical and educational challenges. It no longer meets today’s building codes, has structural deficiencies, inefficient and inoperable systems and does not adequately support our educational curriculum. Inherent characteristics particular to the building design and construction have made many types of modifications difficult or impractical. For example, the school is primarily concrete and steel construction making any IT upgrades or interior wiring practically impossible. Lastly, while the Town has undertaken several selective repair projects over the years, numerous systems have reached the end of their useful life and need wholesale replacement.
The repair-only option also makes no educational improvements. Many spaces originally designed as vocational shops within the building have been modified as best as possible into classroom spaces, but do not meet minimum teaching and learning needs of students.
What will the Project cost?
After reconciling two separate cost estimates for the New Chapman design, the total project cost for a New Chapman Middle School is estimated to be $163.2 million. We were pleased that this was on the lower end of the original $157-174 million estimate. This cost reflects the size of the new building, which, at over 250,000 square feet and accommodating 1470 students, will be one of the largest Middle Schools in Massachusetts. It should be noted that at this cost, the New Chapman Middle School is on the low end of cost per square foot when compared to other school building projects at similar points in the MSBA process.
How much will the MSBA reimburse the Town for the Project?
Weymouth’s MSBA base reimbursement rate was 56.26% of the project’s eligible costs (not total project cost). The MSBA defines what costs are eligible and ineligible and both are included in the total project cost. Examples of ineligible project costs are the auditorium, the larger gymnasium space, and site and building costs in excess of the MSBA’s cost limits.
In addition, the School Building Committee, with the support of our consultants, have aggressively pursued additional incentive reimbursement points for such things as sustainability and maintenance best practices. The School Building Committee was able to secure an additional 4.82 reimbursement points, making Weymouth’s new MSBA Reimbursement Rate 61.08% (of eligible costs).
The School Building Committee, with the support of our consultants, also successfully made the case for more of the project falling into the “eligible” category, securing an additional $3.3 million in reimbursement funding, which directly saves Weymouth taxpayers $4.7 million in borrowing costs.
Factoring all that in, it is estimated that the MSBA will provide a grant of approximately $57.3 million, with the Town’s share after the grant estimated to be $105.9 million.
The Town Current plans to fund $10 million of this cost within the tax levy, leaving a total debt exclusion amount of $95.9 million.
What is included in the total project cost?
The total project cost estimate includes all construction costs – the new building, site work, playfields, and demolition of the existing school. It also includes design fees, construction-related testing costs, construction contingencies and furniture and educational technology equipment.
What are the Project’s sustainability goals for the chosen design option?
Weymouth has identified a goal of 2% additional reimbursement from the MSBA High Efficiency Green School Program. To the best of our ability, at this stage in the design, the project seeks to include the construction elements and high-performance measures to achieve that goal. These elements and measures include, but are not limited to: sensitive land protection, green vehicles, construction activity pollution prevention, environmental site assessment, open space, rainwater management, light pollution reduction, water use reduction (outdoor and indoor), minimized energy use, enhanced refrigerant management, storage and collection of recyclables, waste management planning, enhanced indoor air quality assessment and strategies, and low-emitting and recycled content materials.
When will the Town be voting to approve the project, and by what means?
A vote to approve the funding (a debt exclusion) for the project will be Tuesday, April 30, 2019.
A debt exclusion override is a temporary increase in property taxes, outside the limits under Proposition 2 ½, to raise the funds necessary to pay debt service costs for a particular project. Debt exclusion funds may only be used for the project listed on the ballot question.
How can I find out the impact to my taxes?
You can easily estimate the effect of the New Chapman Middle School Debt Exclusion on your property taxes by using the Chapman Deb Exclusion Calculator at www.weymouth.ma.us/chapmancalculator It should be noted that the amounts are based on your property’s current assessed value.
Why would we need to go outside the tax levy to fund this project?
If the Town of Weymouth was to entirely pay for its share of the Chapman project, estimated to be $105.9 million, from its existing tax levy, it would have two immediate impacts: 1) It would limit debt funding available to pay for future Town capital improvement projects. This includes projects to repair and maintain other town and school buildings, and repairing and paving roads and sidewalks, field projects and any other possible projects, and: 2) It would significantly increase the Town’s debt service budget, a fixed cost in the Town’s operating budget, limiting the annual revenue available to fund other services and departments for at least the 20-25 years it would take to pay off the Chapman project’s bond.
The town does plan to borrow a portion of the costs to fund the New Chapman School inside and outside the tax levy, lowering the debt exclusion costs to taxpayers.
What if the project is not approved by the voters?
The Town would not receive the estimated $57.3 million in state grant funding to resolve the deteriorating conditions of the near-60-year-old Chapman Middle School.
Taxpayers would still have to spend tens of millions of dollars in significant capital improvements in the upcoming years to address deficiencies and bring the building up to code. Doing this still does not address the educational programming needs.
If the project is not approved, any future effort would require the Town to submit a new Statement of Interest to the MSBA and await an invitation from the MSBA to enter the Eligibility Period phase of the MSBA’s process. This would take years and, in the meantime, the Town would need to use its own funds to repair the Chapman building – competing with funding for all other Town capital projects.
What happens if the project is approved by the taxpayers?
The project will move into a five-month design development phase, during which the design and drawings will be further refined. This will be followed by the construction documents phase when the construction bid documents are prepared by the architect. Construction would then start in early Summer of 2020.
When will the New Chapman Middle School be completed and open?
This will depend on whether or not we are able to relocate Chapman School students during construction. If we are able to relocate 7th and 8th graders during construction, construction could be completed in two years, in time for the 2022 – 2023 school year. If we are unable to relocate Chapman students during construction, the project would take three years to complete and be ready for the 2023 – 2024 school year.
How can I learn more and keep up to date on the Chapman Project?
You are encouraged to visit the project website, www.anewchapman.org
You may also email the School Building Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please email Duclinh Hoang with any questions regarding to the new Maria Weston Chapman Middle School Project.