Peebles School Project Update

Town officials continue to move forward with plans to replace the aging James F. Peebles Elementary School.

At the July 15 Bourne Board of Selectmen’s meeting, town administrator Thomas M. Guerino told the board he is in the process of making appointments to a school building committee that will work with the Massachusetts School Building Authority on the project. The MSBA is the agency that would provide funding to either renovate or replace the aging Peebles School.

The committee, as required by the school building authority, will include Mr. Guerino, schools superintendent Steven M. Lamarche, a school principal, two members of the Bourne School Committee including one who is a Massachusetts-certified public purchasing official, and a finance committee member. Other members of the committee include a local official responsible for building maintenance, a local chief executive officer, a community member with architectural, engineering, and/or construction experience, and someone knowledgeable in the educational mission and function of the Peebles School.

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Mr. Guerino said he anticipates announcing who will serve on the school building committee by the middle of next week.

On July 14 at a joint meeting of the Bourne School Committee, the Bourne Board of Selectmen and the Bourne Finance Committee, finance committee member Mary Jane Mastrangelo noted that the state agency requires that a town have a school building committee in place by August 18. Mr. Guerino pointed out that under town bylaw, the committee had to be approved by a vote at Town Meeting. However, town bylaws also allow for the town administrator to appoint a temporary ad hoc committee, to serve until such time as Town Meeting can be scheduled and a formal vote held on a permanent building committee.

School board member Christopher J. Hyldburg provided an update on the timeline and expectations of the school building authority with regard to the Peebles project. Mr. Hyldburg, along with Mr. Lamarche and selectmen chairman Peter J. Meier, met with the agency’s representatives in Boston on July 7. Mr. Hyldburg told people at the July 14 meeting that the agency was very clear in its determination that the members of the temporary committee remain on the permanent committee voted in at Town Meeting. He also said the school building authority’s recommendation for the committee is that it be composed of a minimum of 12 members, whereas Bourne’s recommended minimum is nine.

Last month, the Massachusetts School Building Authority announced the school district’s application for the Peebles School had entered the initial “eligibility” review phase. The eligibility period helps to determine the school district’s readiness to manage a capital project and to assist with the planning of the project and the formation of a project team.

The Peebles School was built in 1953 and has served the town for 61 years. School officials have said that the building is safe for the 400 students who go there, but the building is far from energy efficient, having its original windows and heating and ventilation systems. Also, technology and computer demands are taxing the building’s original electrical system. In addition, the brick façade of the school and the foundation of the rear annex, added in 1959, are showing signs of decay. Classroom, library and special education space needs are also of concern to the district.

The authority’s approval initiates the 270-day eligibility period for Bourne Schools to complete certain preliminary requirements necessary to move forward in the grant-funding process.

Successfully completing the preliminary requirements to the satisfaction of the school building authority at any time within the 270-day eligibility period, would make the Peebles project eligible to receive an invitation from the authority board of directors for next steps in the process, the feasibility study phase.

Mr. Hyldburg told everyone that taking part in the feasibility study also requires a vote by residents at Town Meeting, and that vote is required before March 16 of next year. However, there is no Town Meeting scheduled prior to that date, he said.

“MSBA, understanding that, recognizes that we probably would be looking to vote on this in October,” he said.

Mr. Hyldburg said while there is an extraordinary amount of information that has to be compiled as part of the process, it is designed for the benefit of both the town and the authority.

“The purpose of MSBA requiring all these things isn’t just for us to educate them. It’s for us to educate ourselves, too,” he said.

He called the process that the authority follows robust and true, and felt assured and hopeful after the meeting earlier this month.

“I feel confident that the fact that we were selected is a good thing, a good thing for the town,” he said.

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