While Massachusetts students may return to the classroom in some form in 2020, it is looking like approval for the Nauset Regional High School building project will have to wait until 2021.
The Mass. School Building Authority (MSBA) voted on June 24 to grant another extension of the contract-signing deadline, this time until May 31, 2021. The agreement, if signed, would guarantee $36.6 million in MSBA funds for the high school renovation. The estimated total cost of the project is $131.8 million.
Chair of the Nauset Building Committee Greg Levasseur brought news of the extension to the regional school committee at its July 9 meeting. Levasseur said the building committee has also secured contract extensions with the project manager and architect to the same spring 2021 date.
The extension gives the four district towns — Wellfleet, Eastham, Orleans, and Brewster — some breathing room to hold their respective town meetings and take votes on the project.
Each town in the district would be responsible for contributing a proportionate share of the project budget beyond what the MSBA will cover, based on the town’s enrollment. In order for the project to go forward, it must be approved at all four town meetings as well as the polls in all four towns as a Proposition 2½ debt exclusion.
Exactly when all those votes will happen remains to be seen. The regional school committee has already postponed its vote on the bonding method and request for funds for the project. That is because once the committee takes that vote, timing becomes critical. District towns have just 60 days from the date of that vote to decide matters.
“It’s tough to determine when is the best time to bring the project to a vote,” said Chris Easley, chair of the regional school committee.
The Brewster Select Board voted 5-0, at a June 29 joint meeting with the school committee, to recommend the requests for funding approval by all four towns be delayed until the spring of 2021. The select board said they’d like to do it next spring at the time of annual town meeting followed by the ballot question a week later.
Wellfleet, Eastham, and Orleans have already held their town elections, but they did not include the high school project vote. Orleans also held its annual town meeting in June but, again, the high school vote was not included.
Wellfleet has a town meeting scheduled for Oct. 5 and Eastham for Sept. 21. Article 5 of Wellfleet’s draft warrant includes the vote on the high school project, while Eastham officially opened its warrant on Monday and a draft is not yet available.
Eastham has a special election scheduled for Oct. 6, but that will include votes only on the town’s budget and petitioned articles from town meeting.
Levasseur said he hasn’t heard from Orleans or Wellfleet on when they’d like to hold their town elections, but he said Eastham Town Administrator Jacqui Beebe told him the town was initially trying to put the vote on the same ballot as the presidential election in November.
But that idea has been scratched because, logistics-wise, Levasseur said, that was going to be “a horror show.”
The school committee agreed to talk more about timing with the building committee at its August meeting.