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MARSHFIELD

School sited, paperwork begins

By Jennette Barnes
Globe Correspondent / September 15, 2011

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Marshfield has settled on a site for a new high school, moving the proposed building farther from Tilden Road to ease residents’ concerns. Much remains to be done, however, before the Oct. 7 deadline to submit paperwork to the state in preparation for a November Town Meeting.

Superintendent Scott Borstel said the building committee needs to finalize the cost, exterior design, traffic study, and leaching field, as well as the layout of interior space and plan for technology. The committee has a work plan, he said, with a timeline that should get them finished on schedule.

“It’s very ambitious, and we’re working diligently,’’ he said.

To get some of the cost - estimated in the spring at $92.7 million - reimbursed by the state, the project must gain approval from the Massachusetts School Building Authority. The authority’s board meets every two months, so its Nov. 16 meeting will be critical for Marshfield. Borstel anticipates the project will appear on that day’s agenda - just in time for a Special Town Meeting the next day and a Nov. 19 ballot to approve the borrowing.

The authority’s September meeting doesn’t happen until the 28th, but Marshfield will not appear on that agenda. At least two other communities south of Boston, however, expect to have their school construction considered that day. Superintendents in Duxbury and Fairhaven said Duxbury High School and a new elementary school in Fairhaven that merges the Rogers and LeRoy L. Wood schools should get a vote from the board that day.

“It’s exciting. It can set us up for years to come for our kids, which is what’s really exciting about it,’’ said Fairhaven Superintendent Robert Baldwin. Like many new schools winning state approval, the school will be built for slightly lower enrollment than the schools have now. Birth rates and predicted construction of new housing can provide a clear picture of what enrollment will look like through 2018, he said.

Enrollment projections help determine how much square footage the state will accept for reimbursement. Marshfield will propose a school of 270,045 square feet, Borstel said, but the building authority hasn’t determined whether it will consent to a school that size.

“We’re still negotiating the overall square footage for the project,’’ said Matt Donovan, a spokesman for the agency. “I don’t want to put the cart before the horse.’’

Duxbury plans a larger school of about 321,000 square feet, but the building will house both the middle and high schools, with classrooms in separate wings connected by shared facilities for sports, the arts, and more. Superintendent Benedict Tantillo said he is fairly confident of winning state approval in September. The project goes to Town Meeting Oct. 29.

In Marshfield as in Duxbury, voters have already signaled support by funding the design phase of the project. But that’s no guarantee of final approval once they learn exactly where the school will be, what amenities it will have, and what it will cost.

Residents weighed in on the site plan for Marshfield High School in August, prompting a change within a week’s time. The building committee held a public forum Aug. 16 on three options, each of which placed the building in different spots on the grounds of the existing high school. The committee preferred Option A, which set the rear of the school against the back of residential properties on Tilden Road.

Some neighbors felt the building was too close to the property line, but they weren’t the only ones to question the building’s proximity to the woods. Jim Cantwell, a Democratic state representative who lives on Tilden Road, said residents suggested the location could encourage mischief in the woods, and that if the building were moved forward, it would be a more prominent part of the campus.

The architects made the change, moving the school, tilting it more toward Forest Street, and putting an athletic field behind it. On Aug. 24, the committee approved a revised plan.

“It was actually a pretty good exercise in local government,’’ Cantwell said. His property isn’t near the building because he lives farther up the street, he said, but he was glad to see the committee respond to comments.

Though Town Meeting funded the design phase, supporters of the new high school are taking nothing for granted. A number of small fund-raisers have been held to generate funds for a “vote yes’’ campaign planned for October and November.

Kate Yesinko, who hosted a fund-raiser at her home earlier this month, said the event raised “a couple hundred’’ dollars to go toward fliers, bumper stickers, and other supplies for the campaign. Asked why Marshfield needs a new high school, the former teacher called the building “run-down.’’ While no teacher makes a decision about where to work based solely on the facility, she said, a modern building would help attract teachers.

Supporters hope to join other communities south of Boston that are celebrating their new schools. In Rochester, Rochester Memorial School just opened an addition. The new Hanover High School opened this month, and the school will host an afternoon of tours and refreshments on Sunday following a 1 p.m. ceremony, with tours running until 5 p.m. In East Bridgewater, the community held a ceremonial groundbreaking on Tuesday for a new high school.

Jennette Barnes can be reached at jennettebarnes@yahoo.com.