FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Presented by the Stoughton High School Building Committee

When is the election and what time are the polls open?

Election Day is June 7, 2016. Polls are open for voting from 7am - 8pm.

Absentee ballots are available at the Town Clerk's Office at Town Hall on 10 Pearl Street, 1st Floor, through June 6, 2016. The phone number is 781-341-1300. Absentee ballots must be returned to the Clerk's office by 8pm on June 7, 2016.

How will a new high school impact Stoughton High School’s NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges) rating and what would be the result of a failure to pass the new school be on that rating?

NEASC (the New England Association of Schools and Colleges) is the accreditation service used by private and public schools in New England to assure that certain basic quality control measures are in place in a school. A NEASC accreditation is a vital measure of a school’s ability to deliver a 21st century education and is a primary factor used by college admissions departments throughout the country. Stoughton High School, while a level 1 school in Massachusetts, was placed on warning status by the NEASC in December 2012. A primary cause for the warning related to the poor condition of the current Stoughton High School. The warning letter raised concerns including but not limited to:

- The limited ability to which the facility supports the school’s delivery of a high quality of educational programs and services.
- The negative impact of undersized classrooms on curriculum delivery
- The lack of handicap access to the fourth floor of the A building which limits students ability to participate in all course offerings
- The poor condition of the facility which has extensive and chronic deterioration, including but not limited to: a leaking roof which continues to cause damage to ceilings, walls and materials; the loss of guidance spaces during inclement weather due to water damage; the poor condition of the track and other outdoor areas; undersized classrooms; classrooms converted from storage areas; outdated electrical panels; undersized gymnasium; and outdated heating and ventilation

The Stoughton School Department has worked diligently to keep the current high school in the best possible condition. In fact, the Town was awarded 1.4% additional reimbursement by the MSBA for the maintenance and facilities upkeep. However, several factors in the warning status are simply not repairable in the current facility. For example, the science labs average 850 SF and do not have the infrastructure to perform high school level science experiments. A 21st century high school science lab is 1,440 SF and includes the appropriate utilities to conduct all required experiments. There are several other similar issues with space, air quality, ventilation, and leaking roof and window systems.

A NO vote would likely result in the warning status being downgraded further in the near term. A YES vote would result in the warning status being lifted upon completion of the new high school.

What is the difference between a Proposition 2 ½ operational override and a Proposition 2 ½ debt exclusion?

Under Proposition 2 ½, a town cannot raise property taxes more than 2 ½ % (after new revenue from growth in the tax base) without voter approval. If the Town Meeting passes a town budget which exceeds the 2 ½% limit, it cannot become law until the voters approve the excess amount by a simple majority at an election. If it is dedicated for town or school operations (an operational override), then it will remain in place indefinitely effectively allowing the town to raise additional taxes by that amount permanently.

A debt exclusion, on the other hand, is used to borrow money for major capital projects. In that case, the Town is authorized to raise those additional funds only for the length of the borrowing. For example, if a town issued a 20 year bond to borrow more money for the new high school, the debt exclusion would come off the tax rolls after twenty years. In summary, an operational override is permanent; a debt exclusion (like the new Stoughton High School) is temporary for the length of the bond.

How will the Town manage this project to maintain construction quality control to avoid the issues that have become apparent on other town projects in the past?

There are several significant differences between how this project is organized and managed compared to projects in the past. First, the Town has hired a professional Owner’s Representative or Project Manager which will have full time staff dedicated to maintaining best practices in quality control. Compass Project Management has managed several recent high school projects (including Norwood High School) which have received strong reviews on their overall quality. Compass will implement a formal and transparent quality control program for the project. Second, the Town has been authorized to utilize CM at risk – a construction methodology that, among other benefits, will allow it to select Contractors who have a proven track record in quality construction. Third, the MSBA will assign a third party commissioning agent whose sole responsibility is to assure that the mechanical, electrical and exterior walls and roof are built to the highest standards required in the specification. The Building Committee is confident that the proper safeguards are in place to assure that this project meets the highest quality standards. 

Are all the fields and outdoor athletic facilities included in the project?

Yes. The project budget includes all of the parking, fields and outdoor structures indicated on this site plan. Specifically, this includes:

- A football and multi-sport synthetic turf field. The synthetic turf will be the most state of the art turf using acrylic filler (not crumb rubber) and designed for maximum concussion protection
- A complete stadium facility around the synthetic turf field including stadium seating, concession stand, bathrooms, press boxes, high quality lighting, and fencing.
- A large natural turf field which will be appropriately sized for MIAA sanctioned soccer matches and other sports.
- A regulation size track and appropriate field event space capable of holding MIAA sanctioned meets. The track would also be available to the community for walking and other uses.
- Five hard surface tennis courts and fencing.
- A storage building to house all necessary equipment including all necessary equipment to maintain the all the fields.

What are the plans for the Central Administration office which is currently housed in the high school?

The project budget includes an amount that will cover the costs of designing and building a Central Administration office. The School Committee will be reviewing possible options for the Central Administration office and expect to have the office on-line well ahead of the scheduled demolition of the old high school. Currently, options under consideration include: a modular office building located at the high school; renovations to the existing Jones School; possible purchase of an available space in Town and outfitting appropriate office space.

What happens if the override does not pass?

If the ballot question does not receive a majority vote on June 7th, then the MSBA will require an immediate plan from the Town on how it intends to accomplish funding the project. Since the Town has already determined it cannot fund the project outside a debt exclusion, a NO vote will effectively end the project and Stoughton’s ability to access funds from the MSBA. In that event, the Town will be faced with yearly bills to patch and repair in a piecemeal fashion the most glaring maintenance and code issues with the building. A recent estimate has determined that in order to fix those issues, it would cost the Town $41 million in 2016 dollars. It is likely that over time, that number would increase significantly. The taxpayers would pay that bill with no assistance from the state.  Importantly, it should be noted that such an approach would not fix space issues in the school. For example, current science labs, which are 60% the size of MSBA standard science labs, would remain so. Also, the gymnasium, which is 66% the size of current MSBA standards, would remain so.