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The Boston Globe

West

FRANKLIN

Voters approve new Franklin high school

Work may start in fall

The class of 2015, now ninth-graders, will be the first to graduate from a new, $104.5 million Franklin High School after voters passed an override of Proposition 2 1/2 by a ratio of nearly 4 to 1.

And if plans move on schedule, construction should begin on land next to the current high school in the fall, with the two-year building process causing little if any disruption to students, according to the district’s superintendent, Maureen Sabolinski.

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“That is my biggest relief, that we’re not going to have to renovate the existing building while students were there trying to learn,’’ she said.

On Tuesday, just under 50 percent of the town’s voters went to the polls, with 7,988 in favor of spending the town’s $49 million share of the project, to 1,982 against it.

Owners of a home valued at $352,700, the average in town, will be paying an additional $260 a year in property taxes beginning in the 2017 fiscal year, and ending in 2040, according to figures provided by Town Administrator Jeffrey D. Nutting.

Supporters of the project launched an aggressive campaign, combining old-fashioned techniques such as holding informational house parties and putting up lawn signs with modern efforts, including creating a website and taking advantage of social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

Town Council member Thomas Mercer, chairman of the School Building Committee, said Citizens for a New Franklin High School, the group that spearheaded the approval effort, did “an amazing job.’’

“It just shows that if you get the facts to the people they’ll go the polls and do the right thing,’’ said Mercer. “I’m overwhelmed.’’

He said that while the campaign was waged, building plans for the new school moved forward.

A Boston-based company, Daedalus Projects Inc., was hired to manage the construction process, with company vice president Sean Fennell serving as the owner’s project manager, according to Sabolinski.

She said they are holding meetings with department heads from the school and throughout town to finalize design plans.

Once that is complete, they will submit the plans for final approval to the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which is reimbursing 59.52 percent of the project’s cost.

The general plans are based on the agency’s “model school’’ design, which has been used in seven locations across the state.

The new school will not be bigger than the current facility, but will have a sprinkler system, be totally accessible to people with physical handicaps, and have state-of-the art technology in every classroom.

These deficiencies in the current building threatened the school’s accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, according to Sabolinski, and were things that had to be corrected with a new building or an estimated $80 million renovation, which would have had to be done alongside classes still in session.

Contractors are expected to be hired over the summer, and a fence erected around the entire building site for the construction period.

“Kids and staff will come and go into the school just as they do now,’’ Sabolinski said.

The baseball, softball, and tennis teams will be relocated to other fields and courts in town until the new school is complete and the old school razed.

The tennis court and fields will be rebuilt on the site of the current school, along with an additional field for soccer and lacrosse, according to Sabolinski.

She said the cost of the project includes all new furniture and equipment, and that the district will try to salvage “everything and anything’’ possible from the old school to be distributed throughout the town’s other schools.

District officials will also set up a couple of “training labs’’ during the construction period for faculty, staff, and students to learn how to use the new technology, which will include the latest computers, document cameras, smart boards, and science lab equipment available.

“We want everyone to be able to walk right into the new school on the first day and know how to use everything,’’ Sabolinski said.

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