Neary Building seeking community input on potentially over $80-$120M project at forum on Tuesday (Updated)

News on the project status, estimated costs, an upcoming forum, and how to stay informed and ask questions.

Above: The Town and schools are encouraging residents to learn more about the big proposed school building project and ask any related questions. (images from project website and forum flyer)

The Neary Building Committee and NSBORO administration asked me to help promote a public forum this coming Tuesday.

When I asked for an update on the project, I learned that one had been shared with parents of K-8 students through NSBORO’s Parent Square system last Friday — but wasn’t distributed/made public to the general community. So, I’m sharing that news, as well.

The good news is that interested community members can avoid a repeat of missing news. The message included a link for signing up on their listserv for future messages on the project. (Since there will be future surveys, I’d encourage signing up here.) It also linked to a website to keep the public informed.

It’s also worth highlighting that a message I received from the NBC Chair, Jason Malinowski, shares that since the initial message was issued:

the committee has reduced the potential size of the building without impacting the educational plan, which will drop the original projected costs

That’s good news since the initial cost projections are big ones. But while some of the figures are outdated, how much they hope to shave off wasn’t detailed. 

The June 14th message gave a cost range of $88M to $122M for potential building projects to improve the school, versus $50M to simply repair and bring it up to code with no improvements. Costs depend on whether they pursue a renovation/new construction and whether the project expands the building to encompass 4 grades instead of just two.

That last decision will also have a big impact on what the Town does about a potential community center. The committee looking into that project recommended the use of Finn School for Town services (like the Senior Center and Recreation) and departments — if it becomes available. That would entail relocating the youngest grades to Woodward School and Woodward’s 2nd & 3rd grade classes to Neary alongside the 4th & 5th graders.

As for the projected costs for the school building project, the June 14th message from Superintendent Gregory Martineau stresses:

It is critically important to realize that these are initial estimates and NBC has a lot more work to perform to narrow this range and to land on the best-proposed option for our community.

The Neary Building Committee plans to have a project ready for a Town Meeting vote in April. As they work towards that goal they are looking to receive community feedback along the way.

Neary Building Committee Forum flyerThe forum over zoom on Tuesday, June 25th from 8:00 – 9:00 pm is one of the methods they are using to communicate with the public. The flyer notes that the meeting will be recorded for future replay and those that can’t make it can submit questions in advance here.

Here is the full message from last week’s announcement:

Dear Parent(s), Guardian(s), and Citizen(s),

The Neary Building Committee (NBC) would like to use this opportunity to provide an update to the community on its progress and next steps. NBC would like to emphasize that community input is critical to the next steps of this project. To stay up to date on the progress of the project, please visit www.nearybuilding.com, join our public meetings, watch replays if you are not able to attend live, or sign up for the Neary Building Project listserv.

On Monday, May 20, 2024, NBC voted to submit the Preliminary Design Program (“PDP”) to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (“MSBA”) as part of the ongoing Feasibility Study. The PDP encompasses all potential options that NBC will be exploring as potential solutions for the Neary School building project. Some options are far more feasible and realistic than others. In the upcoming weeks, NBC will continue to hold public meetings and start to narrow down the list of potential scenarios for further evaluation. 

For purposes of determining the square footage needed for various grade configurations, the PDP outlines the maximum square footage needed. NBC, in collaboration with the School Administration, will start to further refine what is truly needed to meet the educational vision for the district for a building that will serve the building for the next 50 years. 

During the summer months, NBC will narrow down the list of potential options resulting in one program and grade configuration that will be further designed, which will include refined cost estimates at each step.

NBC intends to survey the community at various points in time during the summer and welcomes the continued engagement of the community to help us narrow down options.  

A few weeks ago, NBC received its first preliminary cost estimate. Using the maximum square footage needed, initial estimates received were between $51 million and $120 million, which is net of the estimated MSBA contribution to the project. The range is largely driven by the number of potential scenarios that are still under review which includes the number of grades that this school will house and the type of rebuild (new or renovation). 

  Two Grade School Four Grade School
Base Repair

$51 million

N/A

Addition/Renovation (2 grade school)

$88 million

$122 million

New Construction

$89 million

$120 million

Numbers represent an estimated 18 % net reimbursement for the top end of the estimated ranges provided to date by the cost estimator

NBC’s dedicated Finance Subcommittee will start to work through the projections of the potential impact that this project budget will have on the average taxpayer so that those numbers can be provided side by side with design options. It is critically important to realize that these are initial estimates and NBC has a lot more work to perform to narrow this range and to land on the best-proposed option for our community.

Based on the latest project timeline, It is still expected that this project will be presented to voters in April 2025.

Again, to stay up to date on the progress of the project, please visit www.nearybuilding.com, join our public meetings, watch replays if you are not able to attend live, or sign up for the Neary Building Project listserv. If you have questions, comments, or concerns, NBC has a dedicated email box at NBC@nsboro.k12.ma.us

We appreciate the engagement of the community to date and encourage the community to take the opportunity to participate in this process as it moves forward. 

Greg Martineau
Superintendent of Schools

Updated (6/21/24 11:23 pm): I had forgotten to include the zoom link for the June 25th forum.

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Jon Green
27 days ago

Did we just glaze over the plan for Finn? Sounds like we are approving school improvements at Neary (great), but not the decommissioning of Finn (bad). Is there a voting option on each of these separately?

Carl Guyer
25 days ago

So, the numbers look scary, but consider this. Massachusetts ranks as the state having either the 2nd or 3rd highest GDP per capita in the nation. No oil fields, no expansive agricultural or timber resources, no major mining operations, no abundant natural resource to exploit. Massachusetts’ economic success is found in Technology, Manufacturing, Medical Science and Finance. All knowledge based activities. Knowledge acquired through education. To spin a common phrase, Massachusetts does not run on Dunkin’, Massachusetts runs on Education.   Who benefits is a symbiotic relationship between residents of the state and the commercial/industrial investments residing in the state. To use another common phrase, “one hand washes the other”. To maintain the current success, continued investment in education is needed.
Right now Southborough has a specific problem.  Believing expansion of the commercial tax base will provide more revenue to support costs such as new schools, the Select Board has over the past decade voted for a low commercial/industrial tax rate supported by a high residential tax rate. Even though the results have been dismal, this strategy continues to persist. It was and is a bad bet on the wrong horse with the odds stacked against winning plainly obvious.  The problem now is with the resulting high residential tax rate the appetite for increasing the residential tax rate to fund an upgraded educational facility is going to be diminished. Add in the restrictions of state law prohibiting any rapid adjustment of the current strategy, the cost of upgrading the economic engine is going to land squarely on residents.  
I would encourage the building committee to continue to press forward. How residents react to increased tax rates will be interesting.

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