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Wayland to build new high school

Town Meeting eases restriction on center project

Proponents of a new high school argued at Town Meeting the existing school, built in 1960, is outdated and overcrowded. Proponents of a new high school argued at Town Meeting the existing school, built in 1960, is outdated and overcrowded. (Boston Globe/ File 2003)
By Calvin Hennick
Globe Correspondent / November 22, 2009

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Wayland Town Meeting voters paved the way last week for a new $70.8 million high school and kept the door open for a 372,500-square-foot town center project.

School officials hope to break ground on the high school by the spring of 2011 and have the buildings open before the start of the 2012-2013 school year.

Patrick Tutwiler, the high school’s principal, said he was “ecstatic’’ about the 1,481-to-95 vote in favor of building the new school. The Special Town Meeting vote came a day after voters at the polls approved raising property taxes through Proposition 2 1/2 debt-exclusion override to fund the project.

“It’s the right time for this school,’’ Tutwiler said. “In fact, it’s well overdue. In many ways it shows the really deep, profound community support for public education in this town. I’m thrilled.’’

Town Meeting voters also took a step toward reshaping Wayland Center by easing a restriction on a major building project. Developers of the Twenty Wayland project, which will include commercial, residential, and municipal space, sought a change that would allow them to decrease the number of designated affordable residential units in the project from 25 to 12.

The contentious issue came up for a vote three times over two days and ultimately passed Thursday, 531 to 251.

Town Meeting voters also passed a 0.75 percent local-option tax on restaurant meals. The new tax is expected to bring the town about $260,000 a year in new revenue.

The school building project will include a new 100,000-square-foot classroom building and a new 54,000-square-foot building that will house a dining hall, auditorium, administration and guidance offices, and music and art classrooms. The project also includes the renovation of the 38,000-square-foot field house.

The new buildings will be built on the high school’s parking lots, allowing students to attend the current facility during the construction of its replacement.

The town’s share of the project will be $45.8 million, which includes funds already spent on a feasibility study and preliminary design, and the state will reimburse Wayland for the balance.

The borrowing will increase residential property taxes by an average of $483 per year on a $650,000 home over the life of the debt, which expires after the 2037 fiscal year. The average tax bill in Wayland last year was about $10,603. The borrowing will have its largest impact in the 2013 fiscal year, when the average bill will spike $661.

Proponents of the new school argued that the current high school, which was built in 1960, is outdated, overcrowded, and is not fully accessible to people with disabilities. They said it would cost more to renovate the school than to build a new one, and the town would miss out on state funds if it rejected the project.

“We are convinced that this is the most cost-effective solution,’’ Lea Anderson, chairwoman of the High School Building Committee, told Town Meeting voters. “We should take advantage of this opportunity.’’

Phil Langsdorf, one of only two people to speak out against the project at the meeting, argued that renovation would be cheaper and the project would take dollars away from other educational expenses.

“Buildings don’t teach, and teachers do,’’ Langsdorf said. “Teachers do better when they have small class sizes. When there are larger classrooms . . . we’re going to have larger class sizes.’’