Last Wednesday, the School Committee voted to submit a Statement of Interest (SOI) to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) with the purposes of building a new Squantum Elementary School on the existing site. The MSBA provides significant state funding to school projects – having provided funds to Quincy for Quincy High School ($72M), Central Middle School ($30M), and the recently completed South~West Middle School ($29M). Here is a small sampling of what our SOI contained:
“The Squantum Elementary School was built in 1919 and an addition constructed in 1971. In forty-nine years, it has not received any substantial upgrades or improvements… a large portion of Squantum's mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems were installed during the original construction of the facility. Aside from the improvements needed to the physical plant, educational components crucial for a 21st century elementary schools are lacking, specifically classrooms equipped for the integration of educational technology and STEM concepts integral for standards-based instruction for regular education, Special Education, and English Learners. Squantum's nurse's office, student support staff offices, cafeteria/gymnasium, and media center are all undersized and under-equipped by modern educational standards.”
The MSBA allows districts to submit multiple SOIs for the Core Program a year, however districts must designate one SOI as their “primary” project. If the MSBA accepts your primary project, it is standard procedure that they will not move forward with another proposed project until the primary one is completed. For Quincy, this means now that South~West Middle School is complete, Squantum has a real chance at being accepted. With that said, I wanted to take a moment to discuss in even more detail how the MSBA Core Project Grant program works:
This is a competitive grant program based on need and urgency, as expressed by districts in their SOI and validated by the MSBA. The MSBA completes an extensive review of available information for districts that submit a SOI for the Core Program each year. Their review helps determine those schools that are the most urgent and needy relative to the pool of SOI submittals filed in that year. The MSBA considers many factors when looking at the totality of the SOIs including, but not limited to, the age of the building, the amount of space per student, the current and projected enrollment, the condition of the major systems of the school, the general environment of the building and the appropriateness of the building to the educational mission. The MSBA has received approximately 100 to 125 SOIs for the Core Program annually and do have a spending cap. Luckily, the recently passed Student Opportunity Act increases funding for this program by $150 million in FY2021 and will allow more districts to participate.
Building a new school, or significantly renovating an existing school, is an incredibly lengthy process that is difficult to navigate. Partnering with the MSBA allows us the opportunity to save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and ensures the facility meets the best practices of today.
For more information on the MSBA, visit https://www.massschoolbuildings.org/
*The Quincy City Council will also need to approve the SOI. The submission deadline is April, 2020.