Wilmington Is “On The Short List” For Invite Into School Construction Grant Program; Wildwood Likely Can’t Hang On Until New School Is Built, Interim Solution Sought

WILMINGTON, MA — At this week’s Wilmington School Committee, Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand provided an update on the town’s efforts to qualify for a construction grant from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) for a future school building project.

“I am pleased to be able to share that Wilmington is seriously being considered [by the MSBA] for a possible partnership. It’s far from being finalized. There are ongoing conversations. We continue to best position Wilmington for a possible invitation in the MSBA’s grant program,” said Brand. “As we understand it, there’s approximately 30 communities that are in the mix… There is no magic number of invitees. It really depends on MSBA’s budget and projections for projects.”

Brand, Town Manager Jeff Hull, Selectmen Chair Jonathan Eaton, School Committee Chair Jennifer Bryson, Assistant School Superintendent Paul Ruggiero, and Public Buildings Superintendent George Hooper held a Zoom meeting with representatives from the Massachusetts School Building Authority on February 3, 2021.

While the town submitted six Statements of Interest for each of its elementary schools, the MSBA will only provide funding for one school building project per district. The emphasis, as a result, is being placed on the Wildwood Early Childhood Center.

“Various representatives posed questions about existing enrollment at the Wildwood Early Childhood Center, the uses of the current school space, and program/educational constraints posed by the existing facility,” explained Brand. “The MSBA inquired about the Town’s financial capacity to commit to a school project and whether the Town has other building projects in the work.”

Brand noted MSBA officials may conduct a site visit to the Wildwood. The town has already provided officials with a 32-page document containing exterior and interior pictures and descriptions of the Wildwood, including classrooms, officers, restrooms, kitchen and crawl space.

Wilmington is expected to find out whether or not it’s been invited into this Core Grant Program at a future MSBA Board of Directors meeting in either April or June.

“The Town would have 270 days from the commencement date to obtain an appropriation for feasibility and schematic design,” noted Brand. “Other intermediate deadlines within the 27- days include the establishment of a school building committee, completion of an online MSBA questionnaire, and completion of a review of enrollment.”

Even if Wilmington were to secure an MSBA grant to fund a building project that would allow it to retire the Wildwood, any potential building project would likely be 5-7 years away.

“The Wildwood is on borrowed time,” stressed Brand. “Regardless of the MSBA and the trajectory we’re on, even if we’re invited in, the Wildwood can’t continue in its current form and operation… I don’t see anything changing for next school year. The building continues to be maintained. Issues are being attended to, but it’s still largely a bandaid right now. We do need to find an interim solution.”

Brand is eager to hire a firm to identify interim options for the Wildwood. Voters supported an $80,000 expenditure at the 2020 Town Meeting to fund the study. Brand believes the town will soon be issuing an invitation to bid in order to solicit firms to conduct the study, which he refers to as “a very important next step.”

“We continue to have conversations with Town Manager Hull to make sure that happens,” Brand told the School Committee.

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