EASTHAM — The cost estimate for the Nauset Regional High School (NRHS) renovation project has dropped to about $131.8 million, according to Greg Levasseur, chair of the Nauset School Building Committee. The initial estimate was $139.4 million, but the committee has reduced the overall footprint of the project by about 6,000 square feet and cut costs.
The committee submitted the schematic design and most recent estimate for the project to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) in early January.
The MSBA Board of Directors will vote on Feb. 13 whether to accept the committee’s proposal and determine how much it will contribute to the cost. The MSBA has tentatively agreed to fund 37.9 percent of the project — roughly $50 million with the current cost estimate. Those numbers could change, depending on the upcoming vote.
Levasseur said the MSBA’s funding will not dip any lower than 31 percent. The MSBA encourages school renovation projects — as opposed to building a new school — which is why the high-school project is being proposed as 60 percent renovation and 40 percent addition.
That means 60 percent of the existing buildings will be gutted and rebuilt. Forty percent of the project will consist of new construction, including a science wing, cafeteria, performing arts center, and offices.
If the project had been proposed as a complete rebuild, it would have cost an extra $20 million or more and received less funding from the MSBA, Levasseur said.
Funding the rest of the cost falls to the four district towns. The regional school committee will be asking Wellfleet, Eastham, Orleans, and Brewster to vote at town meetings to allow the borrowing of the required funds. Each town must approve the project as a Proposition 2½ debt exclusion.
Funding amounts for each town will be based on enrollment numbers at the high school.
Levasseur said that, as of today, 13.7 percent of all students living in the NRHS district are from Wellfleet; 20.7 percent from Eastham; 19.4 percent from Orleans; and 46.4 percent from Brewster.
Then there are the students living outside the district: school choice students from various Cape towns and tuition students from Provincetown and Truro. According to Oct. 1, 2019, enrollment numbers, of the 921 students at NRHS, 219 are school choice students and 86 students come from Truro or Provincetown.
But for any school building project in Massachusetts, it’s the district towns that foot the bill.
The money charged to each town could change year to year. Levasseur said it takes only a few students to shift the balance of enrollment at the high school.
“I ask that people not get too married to the numbers,” he said, noting that the project cost could even change after construction bids come in — project bids for the new Cape Cod Regional Technical High School came in about $10 million lower than what was proposed.