Since the late 1990s, the Town of Wellesley has steadily engaged in school projects to address aging facilities and renovate or rebuild as needed to meet the immediate and long-term educational needs of its students. The Hardy, Hunnewell, and Upham schools are the last to address as part of this master facilities plan. Since 2012, multiple Town committees have determined that simply renovating the existing HHU schools would not be sufficient to meet educational needs, and have recommended rebuilding to 21st-century standards.
With elementary enrollment in a decade-long decline, currently the Town is planning to rebuild two of the three schools, the Hunnewell School and either the Hardy School or Upham School, with the third school closing once the project is complete. The School Committee has voted to recommend rebuilding the third school when enrollment reverses trend and reaches a specific target.
While these will be two separate construction projects, they are connected in important ways -- through project oversight; by a shared project team; through a common school size; and by the need for system-wide elementary school redistricting when construction is complete and the Town consolidates from seven neighborhood schools to six. This page also includes an overview of the approval process for each school, and a look at the decline in elementary enrollment, including how the schools are monitoring long-term trends.
Wellesley High School (SMMA & MSBA)
The School Building Committee (SBC) will conduct feasibility studies for both elementary schools. Click here for the current list of SBC members as appointed by the School Committee and the Board of Selectmen. In conducting the analysis and making its recommendations, the SBC is guided by the Charge to the SBC as well as the School Committee's HHU Position Statement.
After the completion of the feasibility study, which will include the selection of the preferred conceptual plan, the design and construction of each project will be overseen by the Town's Permanent Building Committee (PBC). Click here for more information on PBC membership and responsibilities.
As with the High School, for the Hardy/Upham project the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) is providing partial funding to the Town through its grant program. The MSBA and its Board of Directors will provide approval and oversight throughout the study, design and construction phases of that elementary school.
Field Elementary School, Weston (Compass)
Through the School Building Committee, the Town has engaged an architectural firm and an owner's project manager via a qualifications-based selection process compliant with Chapter 7C of the Massachusetts General Laws.
SMMA, the firm that designed the new (2012) Wellesley High School facility and has helped the Town with school facilities master planning among other projects, is serving as the architect for both the Hunnewell and the Hardy/Upham projects.
In addition, the Town has selected Compass Project Management as owner's project manager (OPM) for both projects to support the Town's interests during the study, design, construction, and closeout phases.
Town staff support for both Hunnewell and Hardy/Upham includes project managers from the Facilities Management Department.
Sprague Elementary School, completed 2002
While both school projects must be approved by Town Meeting and the voters, the processes are slightly different. The reason: One project (Hunnewell) is to be entirely funded by the Town, and the other (Hardy/Upham) will be funded by both the Town and the state of Massachusetts.
The Hunnewell project has three approval milestones, following the typical Town process: Feasibility funding (approved by Town Meeting on June 5, 2018), design and permitting funding (which requires approval from Town Meeting, schedule TBA); and construction funding (which will require a debt exclusion approved by both Town Meeting and the voters).
For the Hardy/Upham project, the Town is partnering with the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which is expected to fund 31 to 35 percent of eligible costs. The MSBA process includes just two funding approval milestones: feasibility and schematic design funding (approved by Town Meeting on October 2, 2018) and detailed design, permitting, and construction funding (requiring a debt exclusion approved by both Town Meeting and the voters). For more on project scheduling, see the Hunnewell and Hardy/Upham pages.
The work of the SBC is driven by the School Committee's HHU Position Statement. Below are some of the considerations that are informing the planning for the Hunnewell and Hardy/Upham projects.
Elementary school size has been a significant discussion point in planning for new facilities. One of the notable recommendations made by the HHU Master Plan Committee (MPC) in 2017 was that the Town build K-5 schools with 19 classrooms, or three classrooms per grade, with one additional classroom to accommodate spikes in enrollment.
The Hardy, Hunnewell, and Upham schools are the Town's smallest, with Hardy operating at 14 classrooms in 2019-20, and Hunnewell and Upham at 12 classrooms each.
The School Committee and the Wellesley Public Schools administration, including all seven elementary principals, have strongly supported a minimum of three classrooms per grade for educational reasons. In addition, building to this size will create parity across the district. Sprague and Bates each have 19 classrooms, and Fiske and Schofield 18.
Wellesley's K-5 enrollment has declined by nearly 400 students since the recent peak of 2,481 students (2008-09). The total for the 2019-20 school year will not be official until October 1, but is expected at around 2,100 students.
In recent years, two professional consultants, Cropper and FutureThink, have provided detailed ten-year enrollment forecasts. Additionally, in 2018, a study by the Massachusetts School Building Authority forecasted an average enrollment of 2,155 over the next 10 years. This number accounted for all potential 40-B and 40-R housing developments that were in the approval and planning stages at that time.
WPS is continuing to monitor enrollment, with internal projections predicting some additional decline. The School Committee has voted to support the MPC's recommendation of planning to rebuild a seventh school once enrollment rises and trends past 2,350 students.
The consolidation from seven to six neighborhood schools will trigger a need for a town-wide elementary school redistricting process.
Any new redistricting map is not expected to take effect until 2024 at the earliest. But the MSBA will expect the Town to include a redistricting plan as part of its "preferred solution" for building either at Hardy or at Upham, to be submitted by the Town in Spring 2020.
Attendance zone maps are the responsibility of the School Committee and school administration. In fall of 2019, the Wellesley Public Schools will begin the process of developing redistricting plans to submit to the SBC to use as part of its analysis of the Hardy and Upham sites. Further detail on the redistricting process will be available soon.