Frequently Asked Questions School Planning Committee
MSBA Center School Project – Easton Early Elementary School Project
Note – Italics Sections represent the “short answer”.
1. What is the Center School Project?
The Easton Center School Project refers to the invitation from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) to participate in their Core Building Program, which provides funding for school building projects in districts throughout the state. Below is a flow chart from the MSBA website http://www.massschoolbuildings.org/building that highlights the steps of the project for Easton:
The MSBA has prepared detailed modules that outline the process and policies for each step mentioned above. For an overview of these modules please visit: http://www.massschoolbuildings.org/building/modules_overview
2. I hear this Project referred to in several ways? What is it called?
The MSBA refers to this project as the “Center School Project”. All official submissions to the MSBA must reference the Center School Project. However, one of the first decisions made by the Educational Leadership Team and School Planning Committee was to rebrand the project to better reflect the opportunity that is presented through this process. In communication about the project with the community of Easton, the project will be called the Easton Early Elementary School Project
3. What is the MSBA?
From the MSBA website: “The Massachusetts School Building Authority ("MSBA") is a quasi-independent government authority created to reform the process of funding capital improvement projects in the Commonwealth’s public schools. The MSBA strives to work with local communities to create affordable, sustainable, and energy efficient schools across Massachusetts.”
The MSBA, which has a dedicated revenue stream to support its work, collaborates with municipalities to “equitably invest in finding the right-sized, most fiscally responsible and educationally appropriate solutions to create safe, sound, and sustainable learning environments.”
In its ten-year history, the MSBA has funded more than $12.8 billion in reimbursements to cities, towns, and regional school districts for school construction projects. Instead of waiting years for reimbursement, districts now receive payments from the MSBA as costs are incurred, usually within 15 days of submission.
4. What is the School Building/Planning Committee?
The MSBA requires that local communities have a School Building Committee, defined from Massachusetts statute, 963CMR:2.10, Paragraph (3) “for the purpose of generally monitoring the Application process and to advise the Eligible Applicant during the construction of the approved project.”
By Special Town Meeting vote in November 1998, Easton established two different committees who have oversight responsibility for school building projects during specific time periods of the project. These committees are the School Planning Committee and the Municipal Building Committee. The School Planning Committee will work with the District leaders, the Town administration, and the MSBA to oversee the project through all the MSBA required modules. http://www.massschoolbuildings.org/building/modules_overview Easton’s School Planning Committee meets all the membership requirements of the MSBA required School Building Committee. From Town Meeting vote, Article 15, in November of 1998, “Voted to establish a school planning committee… to recommend sites for new school facilities, to determine school program requirements, to select an architect, to work with the architect to develop building plans up to the design development stage, to prepare articles and presentations for town meeting and the public in support of school building projects, and to coordinate with the Municipal Building Committee.”
5. What does the invitation to participate in the MSBA program mean for Easton?
The invitation to participate in the MSBA Program is an extraordinary opportunity for the Easton community. The ability to secure millions of dollars in funding from the State for such a large capital project reduces the cost burden on Easton’s taxpayers. The MSBA has developed a structured, rigorous program broken into 8 distinct phases which the MSBA defines as modules. http://www.massschoolbuildings.org/building/modules_overview This invitation does not guarantee that we will successfully complete all the steps which lead to state funding assistance for a building project. At the end of Schematic Design, the Town must secure community authorization and financial support for the proposed project and enter into a Project Funding Agreement with the MSBA.
6. If only Center School has been invited to participate, what will be done about the other schools?
The Town of Easton submitted Statements of Interests (SOI’s) for all three primary schools to the MSBA; the MSBA will not consider multiple schools on one submittal. In fact, every year since 2011, the District submitted annual letters of interest to the MSBA for each of our primary schools. In February of 2017, Center School was invited to participate in the MSBA School Building Program. Although the MSBA has invited Easton’s Center School, Easton has been given the opportunity to study a solution that may address the needs of all three primary school buildings. The MSBA will allow Easton to consider two design options and two site options for this project. The School Planning Committee has submitted two options to the MSBA for consideration:
- The first is a Center School Project which will meet the educational needs of the projected Center School enrollment population.
- The second is a District-wide project which will meet the educational needs of the projected town-wide pre-K through 2 enrollment population.
Additionally, the School Planning Committee has have identified two potential sites for this work:
- The current Center School site.
- The current Parkview site.
A comprehensive Feasibility Study (Question 11) will lead to a preferred and final design solution that would service either a singular population for the Center School or a district-wide population of PreK-2 Students. If the smaller enrollment scenario is chosen as the preferred solution, the District would need to continue to submit Statements of Interest to the MSBA for both Parkview School and Moreau Hall, if Easton wishes to receive acceptance into the MSBA’s Building Program for these schools.
7. Why doesn’t the Town just repair the three primary schools we have?
The current primary schools are less than optimal learning environments for two reasons: the first is their state of disrepair and the second is their inability to meet educational programming requirements of our students.
In 2014, the Town of Easton retained the firm of Dore and Whittier to complete an extensive review and assessment of our Municipal and School Facilities. Their comprehensive report is available on the Town website, https://eastontownma.documents-on-demand.com/Document/a32f5a65-1db3-e511-8980-001fbc00ed84/Municipal%20&%20School%20Facilities%20Assessment_Reduced%20size.pdf
Their analysis indicated that the cost to repair these three buildings could equal $30,000,000. Note that this cost estimate is for repairs only. It does not include any major changes, expansions, or significant reconfiguration of the current buildings. The repairs identified in Dore and Whittier’s study are extensive and include HVAC, plumbing, electrical, roofing, site work, building exterior and interior structure – items such as new boilers, windows, lighting, ceilings, security systems, etc. It is important to understand that there is a great deal of complexity embedded in this number. For example, the requirement to bring any public building into ADA compliance is triggered when a specific percentage of cost or work on a building is completed. Given the extensive work that is needed in the schools, it is likely that those triggers would occur.
The condition of our current primary school buildings is further complicated by the requirements of education in the 21st century. Our buildings don’t have sufficient or appropriately designed space to provide for the needs of our students and their families. Our educators and administrators have had to become creative in their ability to turn closets into Physical, Speech, and Occupational Therapy rooms, hallways into assessment locations, and libraries into classrooms, but these solutions are restrictive at best and, at worst, impede our ability to adequately support our learners. For example, it is difficult to hold gym or music class at Center School; the weather can cause significant condensation on the floor and make it a less than optimal place, potentially even unsafe, for those classes. Moreau Hall which was not constructed as an elementary school to begin with, has few actual classrooms; the ability to create distinct spaces is often accomplished with bookcases, storage units and bulletin boards. Parkview has multi-use spaces (gym and cafeteria) that are surrounded by classrooms; when they are being use, it creates considerable disruption for children in adjoining classrooms . Our educators continue to work incredibly hard to ensure our students receive a quality education and our custodial and DPW staffs save the District significant funds in their extensive work keeping the facilities in the best possible condition. There is a strong culture of character, caring, and collaboration at our schools and our families feel a compelling connection to each of our schools despite the physical state of the buildings. The goal of the Easton Early Elementary School Project is to provide our students and educators with a physical environment that matches the caliber of the learning environment that each of our primary schools has worked so diligently to develop.
8. Why is it so expensive to repair the existing buildings when a new school would require all of the same work and then some?
Common Statement: “The new school will need all the things and costs an upgrade will require plus new walls, roofs, ceilings gyms, fixtures, plumbing, demolition of old school, foundations.” which is 100% correct.
The existing schools need extensive repairs in order for them to be brought up to current code. For example:
- The walls and roofs do not meet current energy code (lack of insulation or vapor barrier).
- The existing ceilings contain asbestos and would need to be abated & replaced.
- The plumbing systems do not meet low-flow or handicap accessibility requirements.
- The gymnasiums require new floors, structural reinforcement, lighting and mechanical systems.
- The building would requires extensive foundation work, in addition to steel shear bracing and seismic clips throughout, as necessary to meet current structural code.
When working within the confines of an existing structure, costs for repair and new or upgraded systems increases exponentially. Imagine trying to install new mechanical system ductwork (to satisfy the current code’s minimum outside air requirements) in an existing small cramped corridor with low ceilings and a plethora of other old systems in your way versus the same task in a new structure which has a clear route and has been designed and framed to accommodate these necessary systems.
9. What is the MSBA reimbursement rate for eligible project costs? What items are ineligible for reimbursement?
To be clear, the MSBA does not provide 100% reimbursement for building projects. However, the reimbursement from the MSBA significantly lowers the tax burden on communities and allows them to complete projects within a more bearable cost structure. Reimbursement rates are calculated by starting with a minimum standard percent (31%) as defined by the MSBA. This rate is adjusted according to a number of factors such as the District’s income factor and property wealth factor which produce the reimbursement rate. The MSBA has given the Town a projected reimbursement rate at 52.26% for eligible project costs.
Eligible project costs are the costs for the core educational program. Ineligible costs are those determined to not directly impact the core education program. Examples of ineligible costs include abatement of vinyl asbestos tile, moving costs, swing space, and soft costs more than 20% of construction cost.
10. Can you explain the Warrant Article to fund a Feasibility Study that was passed at Special Town Meeting on November 13, 2107?
The School Planning Committee requested that Special Town Meeting appropriate $1 million dollars to fund the Feasibility Study and Schematic Design phase for the Center School Project. (Modules 2 – 5 of the MSBA process http://www.massschoolbuildings.org/building/modules_overview ) This is a requirement of the MSBA process. This funding will allow the Town to:
● form the Project Team
● document our educational program
● Develop and evaluate alternative design solutions
● Submit a preliminary design program to the MSBA
● Develop a final design program and schematic design which allows for the development of the scope, budget and schedule of the proposed project.
The Feasibility Study is completed by a Designer/Architect under the management of an Owner's Project Manager (OPM), hired by and in collaboration with the School Planning Committee. All this work must follow very specific MSBA guidelines and requirements. Although it is called a study, this step is an extensive plan, and a necessary investment to qualify for state funds. The budget is based on the MSBA recommendations, which looks at comparable costs from other Districts who have recently undergone a similar study.
At Annual Town meeting in May of 2017, Warrant Article 8 transferred $1 million dollars from the Avalon mitigation money to capital stabilization funds. The BOS, the School Committee, the Finance Committee, and the Budget Subcommittee have all agreed that the Avalon mitigation money be allocated for school specific projects. Approval for the Feasibility Study was voted unanimously at the Special Town Meeting on November 13, 2017. This approval allowed the Town to move into the Feasibility and Schematic Design Phase of the Project.
11. What is the Project Feasibility Study?
The Easton Early Elementary School Project is currently working through the Feasibility Study (MSBA Module 3 http://www.massschoolbuildings.org/building/feasibility ) of the MSBA Building Process. The MSBA has invited Easton to study two enrollment scenarios:
o 235 Student Enrollment Grades K-2 for the Center Elementary School
o 760 Student Enrollment Grades K-2 for the District’s K-2 Population
Easton and the project team shall also be studying the incorporation of “Pre-K” students into the above enrollment scenarios and designs.
The purpose of the Feasibility Study is to explore potential design solutions that meet the requirements of the District’s Educational Program, and to determine the most cost effective and educationally appropriate solution which is recommended to the MSBA Board of Directors for its consideration and approval. After this approval, the District will proceed into Schematic Design. (MSBA Module 4 http://www.massschoolbuildings.org/building/schematic)
The Feasibility Study begins with a thorough evaluation of the current buildings and sites which documents the current conditions and estimated costs to repair those buildings. Simultaneous to this work, the District also develops its Educational Program. From MSBA documentation, “The Educational Program shall include a statement of the teaching philosophy and methods; a thorough, in-depth explanation of the District’s curriculum goals; and, objectives of the program elements associated with the subject facility.”
The next step in the Feasibility Study is to use the Educational Program to guide development of the initial space summary. This summary will identify the educational spaces the District believes are needed to deliver its educational program. Once developed, this template will be submitted to the MSBA.
Once agreed upon by the MSBA, this Initial Space Summary will help inform the development of alternative design configurations which should to be studied. Once the study of these alternatives has concluded, the most educationally appropriate and cost-effective design solution will be recommended. The final evaluation of alternatives and selection of the most appropriate solution will be documented in the Preferred Schematic Report which is submitted to the MSBA Board of Directors. After their review and approval, the MSBA will authorize the District to proceed to Module 4, Schematic Design.
12. What is the role of the Owner’s Project Manager? Who was selected as our Owner’s Project Manager?
The Owner’s Project Manager (OPM) provides project management services to an Owner throughout the life of the Project. Consequently, an Owner will work closely with its OPM from the earliest stages of the project through the project’s completion. The selection of a qualified OPM is one of the most important decisions an Owner will make to the project as the OPM has extensive experience on MSBA projects. In the late winter of 2018, the School Planning Committee formed a Procurement Subcommittee. It was this committee’s responsibility to follow the MSBA’s defined process to select the OPM and to recommend an OPM to the full School Planning Committee which, in turn recommended our selection to the MSBA Owner’s Project Manager Selection Panel. In May of 2018, the School Planning Committee voted to recommend PMA Consultants to the MSBA’s Owner’s Project Manager Selection Panel for approval. On June 4, 2018, the MSBA approved our selection of PMA as our Owner’s Project Manager. After this approval, the Board of Selectman authorized execution of the contract for services with PMA.
13. What is the role of the Designer/Architect? Who was selected as our Designer/Architect?
The Designer is primarily responsible for working with the District to complete all the objectives outlined in the Feasibility and Schematic Design phase of the project. The selection of a Designer must follow a specific process as outlined by the MSBA. The MSBA Designer Selection Panel (DSP) has jurisdiction over the procurement of designers. The DSP includes 13 representatives appointed by the MSBA and 3 representatives from the Town. At the MSBA’s Designer Selection Panel meeting on August 21, 2018, Perkins Eastman was selected as the Designer for the Town of Easton. The contract with Perkins Eastman was authorized for execution by the Board of Selectman on September 24, 2018.
14. What are the next steps required to move this project forward?
RFS = Request for Services, PDP = Preliminary Design Program, PSR =Preferrred Schematic Report, SD =Schematic Design
15. How is our community included in this process?
The School Planning Committee knows that community input, support, and approval is essential for any building project to be successful. There will be many opportunities for educators, parents, and community members to participate in the process. Several of these opportunities are MSBA requirements connected to the project funding; funding for the full project cost must be approved through both a Town Meeting vote and a Ballot box vote which authorizes the Town “be allowed to exempt from the provisions of Proposition two-and-one-half, so called, the amounts required to pay for the bonds issued in order to [Insert description of the Project]”. This is often referred to as a Debt Exclusion.
In addition to these important authorization milestones, the School Planning Committee, working with our OPM and Designer will reach out to our community as we work through the 12 to 18-month feasibility and schematic design phases of this projects. Educators, parents, and community members will be afforded the opportunity to provide critical input into the design of our primary schools.
One of the most important first steps in this process is to develop an Educational Program which ensures that school projects are responsive to the educational needs of a district. The Educational Program includes (per MSBA guidelines):
- a statement of the teaching philosophy and methods
- a thorough, in-depth examination of the Districts curriculum goals
- objectives of the program elements associated with the subject facility
Only after the Educational Program has been developed by the district and community, and accepted by the MSBA, can the district work effectively with its designer, OPM, and local stakeholders to develop, evaluate, and select a design that supports its educational objectives and needs. Establishing a comprehensive and thoughtful educational program also helps to provide for future flexibility to adapt to changes in programming or teaching methodologies over the useful life of the school.
An Educational Leadership Team (ELT) was formed in September of 2018. The ELT is comprised of Senior Administrators and Faculty members from the School District. In October and November of 2018 Educational Visioning Workshops will occur – participants include parents, educators, community members, and business leaders from across the Town.
Check back with the website for upcoming events/dates or sign up to receive updates on the Project.
Specific questions or concerns can be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org
16. What is the estimated project cost? What is Easton’s anticipated share?
During the Feasibility Study, the District will review Base Repair options (fixing what is broken), Renovation options (fixing what is broken and renovating the space), Addition/Renovations options (fixing what is broken, renovating the existing space and adding new space), and New Construction. All of these Options will be reviewed for both the smaller enrollment study and the larger enrollment study. Cost Estimates will be reviewed for all options during this phase of the project.
Feasibility concludes with a decision for preferred schematic design for the project which includes location, Center School enrollment or Consolidation enrollment, and preliminary architectural design models. A preferred solution has not been determined at this time; therefore, the estimated project cost is not available. The project cost for the final design solution will be established in the upcoming months, specifically during the Schematic Design Phase. This cost will be submitted to both the MSBA and the Town for their consideration before the project can move forward.
17. When would construction start/end?
A Schematic Design (Module 4 of the MSBA process) is scheduled to be completed by December of 2019. Thereafter, Detailed Design and bidding will take 10-12 months, meaning construction could start as soon as December 2020. The schedule above is contingent upon local funding authorization via voter approval at both Easton Town Meeting and Ballot Question after the completion of the Schematic Design Phase.
18. Does the Town need to borrow the entirety of the estimated project cost? If so, what happens to the reimbursement payments from the MSBA, where does that money go?
While Easton will vote to authorize the full project value, the Town does not need to borrow the full amount for the project - just the anticipated district share. Reimbursements of eligible costs are made by the MSBA monthly. Upon completion of the schematic estimate reconciliation process, a comprehensive cash flow projection will be developed by the Owner’s Project Manager which will forecast the anticipated district’s out of pocket expenses at any given point in time. This cash flow projection can then be utilized to limit borrowing to only what is absolutely necessary to keep the project moving along, thus keeping borrowing charges to a minimum.
19. How will the current Parkview or Center School Site will accommodate an increase in traffic resulting if a combined enrollment solution be chosen for that site.
During Feasibility study, all impacts to the potential site will be considered – neighborhood impacts, current site use impacts, and traffic impacts. During the Feasibility Study, Perkins Eastman and their traffic engineer will be reviewing the sites and making recommendations to the School Planning Committee with regards to these efforts. One of the most compelling reasons for the selection of Perkins Eastman as the Designer had to do specifically with this reason. Should a solution be selected to move forward at the Parkview site, a comprehensive traffic analysis study would be completed at that time.