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State chipping in $11.5m for Newton’s Angier project

The Massachusetts School Building Authority voted to contribute up to $11.5 million toward Newton’s $37.5 million new Angier Elementary School, one of five projects across the state that were approved for funding Wednesday morning.

“The whole process thus far, it’s just off to such a good start,” said the Newton system’s superintendent, David Fleishman. “That’s what I’m so positive about. We just have a lot of really smart and committed people. . . I think all the players are working well together.”

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The project was funded in part by a tax increase approved by voters in March; city officials had been anticipating about $10 million from the state.

“It speaks to the conservative forecasting that we’ve done around this project from the beginning,” Mayor Setti Warren said. “It also speaks to the quality of work that has gone into the projections by city and school staff together over the last year.”

Construction at Angier, which is in Newton’s Waban section, is expected to start after students leave next spring; the new school is lined up to open as soon as February 2016.

During its meeting Wednesday, the authority’s board authorized up to $179.9 million in grants for school building projects. In addition to Newton’s funding, the board voted to provide up to $53.6 million for a new middle school in Lynn, $42.6 million for a new high school in Winthrop, $27.7 million for a new elementary school in the Athol-Royalston Regional district, and $44.5 million for a major renovation of Winchester High School.

Angier Elementary was built in 1919, and is, by today’s standards, woefully undersized. There is no cafeteria — students have lunch in a basement corridor — and classrooms are overcrowded. Enrollment in Newton is steadily rising, according to school officials, who have reported 10 percent growth over the past nine years.

The new school will be built to hold 465 students; enrollment at Angier this year is 417. Students will have a cafeteria, a full-court gym, and a new playground; classrooms will be designed with extra space for after-school programs, and the hallways will be dotted with “breakout rooms” and activity tables for students to work in small groups or one-on-one with specialists. There will be two “quiet rooms” for students who need to calm down, and Angier will be the first of Newton’s elementary schools to be fully air-conditioned.

In March, Newton voters approved two Proposition 2½ debt exclusions, raising taxes by a total of $62.5 million, to help rebuild the Angier and Cabot elementary schools.

With the Angier project moving along at a steady clip, Fleishman said, the city has a good model for the Cabot project. “I feel like we have a lot of momentum, I feel like we’ll build a lot of trust and confidence,” he said. “So far, it’s been really positive.”

The state building authority visited Cabot last month, said Deputy Superintendent Sandra Guryan . It has not been decided whether the school will be renovated or replaced with a new building, she said.

A third elementary school, Zervas, is up for renovation, though Fleishman said the city plans to do that work without funding from the state. The building is not in as poor shape as Angier and Cabot, he said, and would not qualify for state reimbursement as quickly, although it needs work soon because it is over capacity.

Guryan said she will review the district’s long-range plans for its buildings at the School Committee’s Oct. 15 meeting.

Carr Elementary School on Nevada Street will be used as swing space during the construction work at Angier.

Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @evanmallen.
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