EASTHAM — The Mass. School Building Authority (MSBA) approved funding for the renovation of Nauset Regional High School (NRHS) on Feb. 13 to the tune of $35.6 million — representing 27 percent of the total $131.8 million cost of the project.
An additional $1 million in state funds is potentially available if the project gets final approval. Greg Levasseur, chair of the Nauset Building Committee, announced the MSBA decision at a meeting of the regional school committee that same day.
The MSBA directors’ vote means the balance of about $95 million will fall to taxpayers in Wellfleet, Eastham, Orleans, and Brewster. Wellfleet’s share would be about $13 million; Eastham’s would be about $19.7 million.
For the work to proceed, the project must be approved by eight votes in the four district towns: first at all four spring town meetings to allow the borrowing of the required funds, and then at each town election to approve Proposition 2½ debt exclusions.
The regional school committee was scheduled to vote on the bonding method and term for the borrowing at its Feb. 13 meeting. But Chair Chris Easley of Wellfleet said the vote had been put off until at least March 23. He said the vote would take place before the first of the district town meetings, which is Wellfleet’s on April 27.
The school committee members commended Levasseur and the building committee for their work.
“You really have to be close to the action to understand how much work has gone into getting to an affirmative decision today,” Jim O’Leary said. “Whether this project goes forward or not is really up to the towns now.”
School Choice Questioned
Recent questions about the renovation have focused on school choice at the high school.
There are 921 students currently enrolled at the school; 219, or 24 percent, are school-choice students from out-of-district towns, and 86 more are tuition-paying students from Truro and Provincetown. Thus, school-choice and other tuition-paying students make up about one-third of the school population.
The MSBA projects a population of 905 students by the completion of the project in 2024.
A group calling itself Concerned Voters of the NRHS Renovation has argued that it’s unfair for the district towns to fund the entire project with so many students coming from outside the district.
David Danish represented the group at a Brewster Finance Committee meeting on Jan. 29 when a presentation on the project was made.
“We have no problem funding a school for the students in the Nauset region but we do have a problem along with the other taxpayers in the four towns funding a school for the students who are coming to our school with no skin in the game,” Danish said at the meeting. “That is, one-third of the students who attend NRHS are not directly involved with the capital expenditure of approximately $132 million.”
Each town’s share of the cost is based on enrollment numbers. As of January, 13.7 percent of all students living in the district are from Wellfleet; 20.7 percent from Eastham; 19.4 percent from Orleans; and 46.4 percent from Brewster. Levasseur said those numbers are constantly in flux.
Erika Meads, a member of a parent group supporting the renovation, said school choice should not be a major factor in considering the project’s merits. She said if the plan is not approved now it will only cost the towns more in the future.
“People have been working for four years to come up with the most cost-effective solution,” Meads said. “It’s not like people above us at the state are coming up with this plan — these are people who live in the communities.”
The parent group, she added, is working to distribute factual information on the project to district voters.
Levasseur said the building committee will be producing updated information in flyers and online at nausetbuildingproject.com. Forums are scheduled in the four towns, including one in Wellfleet on March 25 and one in Eastham on March 31.