Region 12 school board to vote on ‘shovel-ready’ Ag-STEM plan
Published 8:07 pm, Sunday, January 22, 2017
The proposed academy has engendered debate among residents and town officials since a $29 million bond issue for the project wasn’t granted by the state last spring. For the past eight months, the project has been revised several times under pressure from the state.
Last Wednesday, almost 200 residents from the districts three towns — Washington, Bridgewater and Roxbury — attended a public forum on the project, split in support and opposition.
Proponents of the project, and board members, have said Ag-STEM will help turn around the district’s shrinkign enrollment. Critics say the project is based on overly optimistic enrollment projections and could bankrupt the district.
The latest project schematics and business plans have already been forwarded to state officials to consider. And board members will now decide if they want to get everything in place for work to begin on the project, which they say might appeal to state officials. Board members have said it could cost around $1 million to get “shovel ready,” and that the state would be more likely to bond the money this time around if they were. Officials have already spent more than $100,000 on Ag-STEM planning.
The project is $10 million cheaper than first proposed and considerably smaller. Enrollment projections have also dropped from 226 students from Region 12 and neighboring districts during the 2024-25 school year to 139 students in the academy.
It is unclear how much money the board will be voting on Monday. Board member Alan Brown said he hasn’t heard a specific number, but said that this vote has been billed as the “shovel ready” vote.
“This is the big yes/no vote,” he said.
The project has gotten support from town officials in Washington and Roxbury, but Bridgewater First Selectman Curtis Read has requested a new three-town vote. Read said the project is too different than originally proposed to go foward without another public vote. The school board’s attorney has said the academy doesn’t have to go to a second vote because it’s cheaper and smaller than earlier envisioned.
The project was approved by 69 percent of voters in November 2015.
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