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Easton weighs building a $94.8 million early elementary school

A rendering of the new school, which would be for prekindergarten through second grade.
A rendering of the new school, which would be for prekindergarten through second grade.Dongik Lee of Dongik Architectural Arts

Easton’s Town Meeting will decide on Oct. 28 whether to borrow money to build a $94.8 million elementary school that will house all public school students in prekindergarten through second grade.

Students in those grades currently go to three different schools: Center, Moreau Hall, and Parkview.

The new two-story building would be called the Easton Early Elementary School and be located behind Parkview — close to the town’s high school, middle school, and Richardson Olmsted School, which contains grades 3 through 5.

The town’s share of the cost is estimated at $58.6 million, with the state picking up the rest.

The loan would cost the average homeowner, with a house assessed at the median value of $405,000, varying amounts over the 30-year life of the loan. The amount would top out at an extra $433 annually from fiscal 2025 to 2050, according to town officials.

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If the proposal passes Town Meeting, scheduled at 7 p.m. in the Ames Sports Complex at Stonehill College, it would next need approval on a townwide ballot, tentatively scheduled for Nov. 5.

At that time, voters would be asked to approve a debt exclusion of Proposition 2½, which limits property tax increases.

The Select Board has proposed lessening the financial impact on some taxpayers by creating a special tax relief fund for elderly and disabled residents. That measure would come before the town’s Nov. 12 Special Town Meeting.

Easton has been working for more than eight years to get its early elementary schools updated, and decided to move ahead with consolidating into one new building after a study found it would be economically and educationally advantageous, according to Superintendent Lisha Cabral.

“We believe that the combined building will actually improve upon our ability to provide services for children,” Cabral said in an e-mail. “There are many advantages including centralized support services, increased professional collaboration, equitable class sizes, and much more.”

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Cabral added that it would cost the town more to repair the existing and aging three early elementary schools than to build the new combined school — an estimated $86 million with no state reimbursement. In addition, the town still would have to deal with overcrowding and outdated facilities, she said.

The new 148,000-square-foot building is designed to accommodate 880 students — about 100 more than the current number enrolled in the three schools. Prekindergarten and kindergarten classes would be on the first floor, and first and second grade classrooms on the second floor.

The central administration also would be housed in the building, and there would be about 210,000 square feet of play spaces and athletic fields.

The Parkview School would be demolished once the new school was finished — the timeline calls for a move-in date of January 2023 — and the town would have to decide what to do with the other two vacant schools, Cabral said.

Officials are holding community forums to educate the public about the project. The first two are scheduled for Monday, Oct. 7, at 5 and 7:30 p.m., at Oliver Ames High School, 100 Lothrop St.

More information about the project is available at sites.google.com/easton .k12.ma.us/eastonearlyelementaryschool/.


Johanna Seltz can be reached at seltzjohanna@gmail.com.