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Needham's Hillside Elementary invited to school building authority's eligibility period

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  November 21, 2013 10:00 AM

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Needham is one step closer to getting a new Hillside Elementary School.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority, which funds public school facilities, has invited Needham school officials to take part in the organization's eligibility period. During this 270-day term, the MSBA will work with Needham to determine if the town is ready to receive state funding for a new Hillside Elementary.

The state funding is necessary for Needham to renovate or rebuild the school.

“The Eligibility Period is a critical step in the MSBA’s process of evaluating potential work on the Hillside Elementary School,” said MSBA executive director Jack McCarthy in a statement. “We look forward to our continued partnership with the district as it enters the Eligibility Period.”

During this phase, Needham officials must complete requirements, such as forming a school building committee and showing the likelihood that town residents would approve the project. After that, the MSBA could invite Needham to conduct a feasibility study for the school project.

State Treasurer Steven Grossman, who is also the MSBA's chairman, said he was delighted to work on the Hillside eligibility in the coming months.

“We look forward to working collaboratively with Needham officials to develop the best solution to meet the town’s educational needs in a fiscally responsible manner," Grossman said.

Hillside Elementary has been slated as next in line for renovation in the town's recent push to revitalize all elementary school buildings, with town leaders hoping to complete the project by September 2019. But officials are unsure whether they should rebuild or renovate the school on its current Glen Gary Road property, or build a new permanent school or temporary classrooms on a different site.

The MSBA invitation also follows the Needham Town Meeting approval this month of a $650,000 feasibility study to determine how to renovate or rebuild Hillside Elementary. Up to half of the study may be reimbursed by the MSBA, local officials previously said.

However, the measure recently divided the community on whether Cricket Field on Hillside Avenue should be include on a list of sites for building the new school or housing temporary classroom space.

Town parks officials who manage the field have indicated that they will not transfer the space to be used for a building, selectman chairman Dan Matthews previously said, which effectively has taken it off the table for a potential Hillside space.

But some locals said using the nearby field should at least have been considered.

"We’re just saying let’s study Cricket Field and if it's $10 million cheaper to build there, let’s decide what that means," said Jacob Grossman, a Needham resident who supports studying the field.

Other residents say the field should be left alone, citing a community need for open
space.

For more information, visit Needham's official website.

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Follow us on Twitter: @yourwatertown, @jaclynreiss

Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com

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