Hansen School override vote set for Tuesday, June 23

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Start paying now or potentially pay more later?

That, according to the Canton School Department, is the central question behind Tuesday’s special town election, which asks voters to authorize a 20-year debt-exclusion override to finance a two-story addition at the Hansen Elementary School.

A rendering of the proposed Hansen addition by Roy S. Brown Architects

A rendering of the proposed Hansen addition by Roy S. Brown Architects

The $4.1-million proposal, which is the lone item up for consideration on the June 23 ballot, is being billed by proponents as a cost-effective and necessary first step toward addressing the school system’s future space needs.

Specifically, the new school wing would replace four outdated modular classrooms at the Hansen School with eight permanent classrooms that would be “fully integrated into the existing school and its HVAC systems.” As part of the project, a new fire suppression system would also be installed throughout the school building, as well as a new loop around the building for fire truck access — two “substantial safety upgrades,” according to a fact sheet prepared by School Committee member and School Building Study Committee Chairman John Bonnanzio.

The project as proposed would cost the average Canton homeowner an additional $26.31 per year in property taxes; however, Bonnanzio said the Hansen is already near capacity and that “building a second floor of classrooms now is far more cost-effective than constructing them later.”

Furthermore, Bonnanzio said the school’s existing modular classrooms — which were designed for 10 years of service but are currently 17 years old — will need to be demolished regardless of the outcome of the override vote.

Without the new addition, Bonnanzio said approximately 80 to 90 students would be relocated to existing classrooms throughout the school. “It is also possible that some redistricting would be necessary, with some Hansen-area students being sent to either the JFK and/or the Luce,” he added. “With less classroom space available, a rise in student class sizes becomes more likely, and it would make universally available full-day kindergarten more difficult to accomplish.”

Bonnanzio said the new classrooms, if approved by voters, would utilize energy-efficient utilities and windows and a modern ventilation system. He added that some of the classrooms would provide “flexible instruction space” for smaller, more specialized groups of students. “This is a smarter, more efficient use of building space,” he said.

Construction on the project would begin as early as the fall of 2015 and be completed in time for the start of the 2016-17 school year.

From the perspective of the School Building Study Committee, Bonnanzio characterized the Hansen School addition as the “first critical piece” of a coordinated effort to address school space needs within the district. The goal, he said, is to be proactive with rising enrollments and to delay the need for constructing a fourth elementary school for at least the next few decades.

Once the Hansen School is addressed, Bonnanzio said the study committee will next turn its attention to the Galvin Middle School, where they are hoping to modify the sparsely utilized locker rooms to create additional space for the performing arts classes. “That would free up space and essentially create the equivalent of three or four new classrooms on the first floor,” he said.

Meanwhile, the bigger target for in-house space solutions continues to be the Rodman building, which could generate upwards of 10 new classrooms if the administrative offices were to be relocated. Bonnanzio said the recommendation of the study committee is to do just that — possibly by moving the school offices into the renovated rolling mill at the former Plymouth Rubber property.

Under this scenario, Bonnanzio said the Rodman could “evolve back into a fully utilized school” and either house the eighth graders or perhaps become a multi-purpose building for specialized classrooms and collaboratives.

“We see that as kind of the intermediate to long-term solution, as we’re not sure when the rolling mill will be finished,” he said. “It will also depend on what the town wants to do with [the rolling mill].”

In the meantime, Bonnanzio said the focus remains on the Hansen School addition and he encourages all registered voters to make their way to the polls on June 23.

Polls will be open on election day between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. at the following locations: Canton High School for precincts 1 and 6; Dean S. Luce School for precinct 2; Blue Hills Regional for precinct 3; and John F. Kennedy School for precincts 4 and 5. A precinct map is also available at www.town.canton.ma.us.

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