Frequently Asked Questions

Process & Timeline

  • How long will this take?

    Demolition on the existing Stanley School and site work would start summer 2022.  Construction completion will occur in summer 2024, with the new twin schools opening to students in September 2024.

  • How was the Stanley Site selected for the new twin elementary schools?
    The Swampscott School Building Committee has spent years researching solutions to our town’s urgent elementary school infrastructure concerns. After studying sites throughout our 3-square-mile town and analyzing community, traffic, environmental, and financial considerations, the Committee and its design team narrowed its analysis to the Hadley Elementary School property, Stanley Elementary School property, Middle School property, Phillips Park and the current DPW facility on Paradise Road.  After significant analysis of each location (including a review of size, traffic, open space, educational opportunities in each design, etc.) the School Building Committee and its design team unanimously concluded the site of the existing Stanley Elementary School was the best location.

    Furthermore, a town-wide survey conducted in Fall 2020 indicated that the Stanley K-4 option was the option with the most overall support. Out of 1059 unique survey responses, the results were:

    • A single elementary school housing all grades K through 4 : 44%
    • A single elementary school housing all grades 3 through 5 : 32%
    • Rebuild of only Hadley School (existing grades K through 4): 24%

    With considerations including site size, traffic, open space, and educational opportunities in each design and site, the Stanley Site is the best siting for a school to serve all our K-4 students equitably.  Current K-4 enrollment in Swampscott is approximately 778 students.  The new twin K-2 and 3-4 schools have been designed to accommodate up to 900 students in order to accommodate potential future increases in capacity and provide flexibility (MSBA Submissions, linked here).  This plan allows for increased teacher and staff collaboration and centralized students support, and ensures that ALL our current and future elementary students have access to a safe and modern building NOW.

  • What is going to happen to our current schools?

    The current Stanley Elementary School building will be replaced with new twin schools – one for grades K-2, and one for grades 3-4. Clarke School will house District administration and Pre-K program, and Hadley School will be repurposed.  Last Fall, Town Meeting created the Hadley Re-Use Committee to study the re-use of the Hadley School, with the goal that the Hadley School will be preserved, continue to serve a public purpose, and not be converted to market-rate housing. Many exciting mixed-use possibilities are currently being workshopped by the Hadley Re-use Committee.

  • How is this proposal different from the one in 2014?

    The proposal in 2014 was for a single school for grades 1-4 behind the current middle school.  That proposal had many challenges, including, for example, a lack of play spaces, and the impacts of having kindergarten separate from the elementary school.  The Swampscott School Building Committee carefully considered and sought to address these issues and concerns in the current twin elementary school proposal.

  • Where will the Stanley kids go to school during construction?

    Students at the Stanley School will attend Hadley School, Clarke School and temporary spaces made available during construction. The plan is currently being finalized by the Superintendent of Schools and the School Building Committee, and will be finalized well in advance of the start of construction in Summer 2022 and the start of the 2022-2023 school year.

  • If we do not proceed now with the new twin elementary schools, what happens?

    Swampscott’s elementary schools are the fourth oldest of any town in Massachusetts.  If we do not proceed now with the new twin elementary schools, then we keep the antiquated, inequitable, and sub-par school conditions we currently have.  If we do not proceed now with the new twin elementary schools, the Town will forgo up to $34,350,000 in grants from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) and Swampscott taxpayers will likely be required to fund 100% of the costs to replace/improve our elementary schools.  Moreover, the cost to renovate or replace our 3 elementary schools to make them 21st century schools was carefully considered by the School Building Committee, but would cost considerably more than the current proposal and will take years, if not decades, to complete.  In the meantime, Swampscott’s students and teachers would continue to have to operate the best they are able in outdated schools.

  • Play Video
    Tenley, the Swampscott School Committee's student representative, introduces viewers to the current state of Swampscott's elementary schools.

    Financial

  • Can we afford to do this?

    The short answer is, we cannot afford not to do this.  Swampscott’s elementary schools are the fourth oldest of any town in Massachusetts. If this vote fails, then we keep the antiquated, inequitable, and sub-par school conditions we currently have. If this vote fails, the Town will forgo up to $34,350,000 in grant funding from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) and Swampscott taxpayers will likely be required to fund 100% of the costs to replace/improve our elementary school. Moreover, the cost to renovate or replace our 3 elementary schools to make them 21st century schools will cost considerably more than the current proposal and will take years, if not decades, to complete. In the meantime, Swampscott’s students and teachers will continue to operate best they are able in outdated schools.

    The total project cost is approximately $98,350,000, of which the Massachusetts School Building Authority will fund approximately $34,350,000 (35% of the cost), leaving Swampscott to fund approximately $64,000,000 of the project cost. Beginning last Fall, the Swampscott Finance Committee, Capital Improvement Committee and Select Board held multiple joint public meetings to discuss the cost of the new twin elementary schools and ways to minimize the impact on Swampscott taxpayers. Thanks to an unprecedented amount of financial reserves set aside over the past 5 years, Swampscott now has the ability to use financial reserves to off-set the cost of the new school in order to minimize the tax impact to residents. The timing of this new school is also perfect for Swampscott taxpayers thanks to record-low municipal interest rates. Earlier this month a Massachusetts town issued 30-year debt with an unprecedented 1.9% per year interest rate.  

    At a joint meeting of the committees on June 14, 2021 (video link here), the Town’s financial team presented multiple financing scenarios.  On July 7th, the Swampscott Finance Committee voted unanimously to support the use of financial reserves to limit the cost of the new school to not more than $0.82 per day for the median single-family taxpayer.

  • How do we know this is the most financially feasible option?

    Last Fall, the Select Board, Finance Committee, and Capital Improvement Committee met with the Swampscott School Building Committee and its design team to discuss the preliminary costs of 7 different options and to determine which alternative was the most tax / cost advantageous for Swampscott. The committees reviewed a comprehensive financial analysis of each option prepared by Unibank, the Town’s finance/bond consultant. 

    By a vote of 16 yes, 0 no, and 1 abstention, the Swampscott Finance Committee, Capital Improvement Committee, and Select Board voted that the current proposal (twin K-2 and 3-4 elementary schools at the Stanley site) was the most tax / cost advantageous in addressing Swampscott’s elementary school building needs.  

    At a joint meeting of the committees on June 14, 2021 (video link here), the Town’s financial team presented multiple financing scenarios.  On July 7th, the Swampscott Finance Committee voted unanimously to support the use of financial reserves to limit the cost of the new school to not more than $0.82 per day for the median single-family taxpayer.  

  • Opponents to the project have said that the project will increase tax bills by 35% from today over the next 10 years - is this right ?

    No, this is 100% false. Swampscott’s average single family tax bill is at the same level as it was in FY2018.  Thanks to an unprecedented amount of financial reserves set aside over the past 5 years, Swampscott now also has the ability to use financial reserves to off-set the cost of the new school in order to minimize the tax impact to residents. The timing of this new school is also perfect for Swampscott taxpayers thanks to record-low municipal interest rates. Earlier this month a Massachusetts town issued 30-year debt with an unprecedented 1.9% per year interest rate.  

    On July 7th, the Swampscott Finance Committee voted unanimously to support the use of financial reserves to limit the cost of the new school to not more than $0.82 per day for the median single-family taxpayer.  

  • Will this new school cost more to operate?

    Currently we have antiquated ventilation systems, no air conditioning, no kitchens, and inadequate electrical services in each of our elementary schools. There is likely to be an increase in operating costs to operate this new school; however, utilities costs will be reduced thanks to the use of modern energy efficient building techniques such as geothermal energy and photovoltaic electricity — making this one of the most green/sustainable school buildings in Massachusetts.  There will also be some operating cost efficiencies associated with consolidating staff at a single elementary school, and with new construction and modern systems, the ongoing cost Swampscott has been facing to keep the antiquated buildings in constant repair will be alleviated.  The Superintendent has publicly stated that there will be no reduction in teachers or educational programs in the new elementary schools.

  • Traffic

  • How are we going to deal with traffic?

    In a 3-square mile town as densely populated as Swampscott, there is no ideal location for a new school.  After studying sites throughout Swampscott for several years, the Swampscott School Building Committee and the professional design team unanimously concluded that the site of the existing Stanley Elementary School was the best location.  

    The new twin elementary schools will have an entrance on Whitman Road, and three exits; one on Whitman Road, one to Forest Avenue, and an emergency and bus access through Forest Avenue Extension, thereby distributing traffic in a way to minimize congestion in adjacent neighborhoods. The project’s design also includes many traffic mitigation measures, extensive drop-off/pick-up queuing lanes on site, and improvements to neighboring sidewalks and intersections. Completion of the Swampscott Rail Trail, which goes directly by the new twin schools, will also provide an additional connection and safe opportunities for bike and pedestrian travel to the school site.

    In addition, the Superintendent of Schools is currently working on two important elements, including (i) adding more buses to transport students to and from the new school (thereby significantly reducing traffic trips), and (ii) adjusting the start and end times for the new elementary school and Swampscott Middle School to ensure that traffic flows for the schools are not in conflict.

  • Can we use more buses?

    Yes. The Superintendent of Schools is currently working on a plan to add more buses to transport students to and from the new twin schools and to the Middle School (thereby significantly reducing traffic trips). By law, towns are required to have busses available for students who live 2+ miles away. The Superintendent is looking into other bussing solutions, including possibly decreasing the radius to 1.5 or 1 miles.

  • Can we have schools start at different times to alleviate traffic?

    Yes.  The Superintendent of Schools is reviewing adjusting the start and end times for the new elementary school and Swampscott Middle School to ensure that traffic flows for both schools are not in conflict.

  • Will the new school have sufficient parking for staff and visitors?

    The new twin elementary schools will have 82 onsite parking spaces. This is substantially better than the Hadley School and Clarke School, both of which have no parking, and require staff and visitors to park on the surrounding neighborhood streets and walk distances to the schools. Additional parking for staff of the new twin schools, if needed, will be available in the rear parking lot at the Middle School.

    One Swampscott teacher who travels between all three schools commented that she has, “walked further than the distance from the proposed elementary schools to the middle school parking lot many times in rain or snow and across a field or down a hill. It would be lovely to have a sidewalk that goes from a parking lot to the school and not have to worry about driving around and around to find semi-distant street parking.”

  • School Size & Features

  • How many kids will attend this new elementary school?

    The current K-4 enrollment in Swampscott is approximately 778 students. The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) requires that new schools are constructed to accommodate potential future increases in capacity. The new twin schools have been designed to accommodate up to 900 students in order to provide flexibility. Current enrollment projections do not anticipate any material increase from current enrollment in the coming years.

  • How do new school buildings improve learning outcomes?

    Swampscott is fortunate to have amazingly talented teachers. Sadly, our aged and outdated elementary school buildings distract and take away from teaching and learning opportunities. No more having to modify or adapt learning plans to the standard of failing buildings. No more canceling classes due to heat or maintenance issues in one of our antiquated elementary school buildings. The evidence is indisputable that healthy, safe, and collaborative environments improve learning.

  • Why are we combining all of our elementary schools?

    The new elementary school building is divided into a lower school (K-2) and an upper school (3-4) with separate entrances and staff; two distinct schools, with some shared facilities. Each grade level will occupy its own wing with classrooms, a resource room, bathrooms, and collaboration areas. There are important educational benefits created by bringing all of our elementary school students together in one centralized location, such as:

     

    • increased collaboration between teachers and staff
    • centralized student support services to ensure maximum interaction with and support to student
    • providing a 21st century school for ALL of our students – equity opportunity and equal service for all learners
    • safe, controlled entrances adjacent to school administration to ensure the safety of our kids
    • more kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms to reduce class size for our youngest learners
    • a safe, healthy, comfortable learning environment
    • multiple smaller learning neighborhoods
    • collaboration space, a resource room, and bathrooms for students and teachers for every grade
    • designated spaces for occupation and physical therapy
    • appropriate bathrooms for both students and staff
    • multiple outdoor learning spaces and play areas and learning spaces (with wifi)
    • designated music classrooms large enough for band and chorus
    • designated art rooms with natural light, storage, and kiln rooms
    • a full size gymnasium, with a court floor
    • nursing areas with private rooms
    • a STEM room connected to a terrace/outdoor space
    • a kitchen and full size cafeteria with a wall of windows overlooking Ewing Woods
    • multiple small rooms for independent work or small group instruction
    • a central staffed library and media area
    • 9 Kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms (to reduce class size for youngest learners)
    • improved student placement

     

  • Are there other towns with a combined elementary school?

    Yes.  There are many communities across Massachusetts that have combined elementary schools similar to this one. Like our proposed twin elementary schools, these schools are often divided into lower- and upper- elementary schools to keep the small learning communities – while efficiently providing resources to all students and teachers.

  • Environmental Concerns

  • Does this plan endanger wetlands and wooded areas that provide wildlife habitat and recreational space?

    No. Similar to the existing Stanley Elementary School, the new building will be built near, but not in wetland and wooded areas. The plan has been designed, and will be constructed, with appropriate environmental oversight and with conservation considerations in mind. The proposed twin elementary schools will comply with all environmental regulations. The design team’s philosophy is to “do no harm”; they have met with conservation advocates in Swampscott, and will work to ensure they live up to their commitment.

  • What is the process to ensure the project is environmentally sound?

    The new twin elementary school will be reviewed by the Swampscott Conservation Commission prior to the start of construction. Similar to the existing Stanley Elementary School, the new twin elementary school building will be built near, but not in wetland and wooded areas. It has been designed, and will be constructed, with appropriate environmental oversight and with conservation considerations in mind. The proposed twin elementary school will comply with all environmental regulations.

  • Will the new school building be energy efficient?

    The new elementary school will be LEED certified and will be heated and cooled using tempered water from 100+ geothermal wells (located under the new soccer field) – giving us one of the most energy efficient schools in Massachusetts. Using geothermal energy and replacing the Hadley and Stanley schools will eliminate +/- 375 metric tons of CO2 emissions per year – that’s the same as removing 45 homes from the grid or taking 81 passenger cars off the road. With solar added to the roof, the new school will generate more energy than it uses.

  • Our Elementary Schools Now

  • Why can’t we renovate our current schools?

    The average age of Swampscott’s 3 elementary schools is 91 years old, making Swampscott’s elementary schools the fourth oldest of any town in Massachusetts. Clarke was built in 1952 (our only ADA accessible school), Hadley in 1911 with an addition in 1922, and Stanley in 1929, with an addition in 1954. Each of these schools lack sufficient and suitable space for educational programs like special education, small group instruction, art & music, and health and wellness services. Existing plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems are obsolete and prohibitively expensive to upgrade. The costs to expand each of the buildings to accommodate 21st century learning needs and to make each of them secure and ADA accessible as is legally required is cost prohibitive, and will take years if not decades.  In the meantime, Swampscott’s students and teachers will continue to operate in outdated school buildings.

    If we do not proceed now with the new twin elementary schools, then we keep the antiquated, inequitable, and sub-par school conditions we currently have. If we do not proceed now with the new twin elementary schools, the Town will forgo up to $34,350,000 in grant funding from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) and Swampscott taxpayers will likely be required to fund 100% of the costs to replace/improve our elementary school.  The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) has already indicated to Swampscott that it cannot financially support rebuilding or renovating 3 elementary schools for Swampscott, thereby leaving it to Swampscott’s taxpayers to pay for 100% of the costs. 

    This is an opportunity to create a town-wide ‘neighborhood school’ for ALL, not just some, of our youngest learners. By uniting our elementary students, teachers and resources in the twin elementary schools, we will provide ALL our K-4 students and teachers with access to modern learning spaces, and we will educate ALL Swampscott’s youngest learners more efficiently and equitably.

  • How was this site selected?

    In a 3-square mile town like Swampscott, there is no ideal location for a new school.  After studying sites throughout Swampscott and analyzing community, traffic, environmental, and financial considerations, the Swampscott School Building Committee and its design team narrowed its analysis to the Hadley Elementary School property, Stanley Elementary School property, Middle School property, Phillips Park and the current DPW facility on Paradise Road.  After significant analysis of each location (including a review of size, traffic, open space, educational opportunities in each design, etc.) the School Building Committee and its design team unanimously concluded the site of the existing Stanley Elementary School was the best location.

    Furthermore, a town-wide survey conducted in Fall 2020 indicated that the Stanley K-4 option was the option with the most overall support. Out of 1059 unique survey responses, the results were:

    • A single elementary school housing all grades K through 4 :44%
    • A single elementary school housing all grades 3 through 5 : 32%
    • Rebuild of only Hadley School (existing grades K through 4): 24%

    Beginning last Fall, the Swampscott Finance Committee, Capital Improvement Committee and Select Board held multiple joint public meetings to discuss the cost of the new twin elementary schools and ways to minimize the impact on Swampscott taxpayers. Thanks to an unprecedented amount of financial reserves set aside over the past 5 years, Swampscott now has the ability to use financial reserves to off-set the cost of the new school in order to minimize the tax impact to residents. The timing of this new school is also perfect for Swampscott taxpayers thanks to record-low municipal interest rates. Earlier this month a Massachusetts town issued 30-year debt with an unprecedented 1.9% per year interest rate.

    At a joint meeting of the committees on June 14, 2021 (video link here), the Town’s financial team presented multiple financing scenarios.  On July 7th, the Swampscott Finance Committee voted unanimously to support the use of financial reserves to limit the cost of the new school to not more than $0.82 per day for the median single-family taxpayer.  

    The Stanley Site is the best siting for a school to serve all our K-4 students equitably.  Current K-4 enrollment in Swampscott is approximately 778 students.  The new twin K-2 and 3-4 schools have been designed to accommodate up to 900 students in order to accommodate potential future increases in capacity and provide flexibility. This plan allows for increased teacher and staff collaboration and centralized students support, and ensures that ALL our current and future elementary students have access to a safe and modern building NOW.

  • What will happen to Hadley?

    Hadley will be utilized for another purpose. Last Fall, Town Meeting created the Hadley Re-Use Committee to study the re-use of the Hadley School, with the goal that the Hadley School will be preserved, continue to serve a public purpose, and not be converted to market-rate housing. Many exciting mixed-use possibilities are currently being workshopped by the Hadley Re-use Committee; the three scenarios in consideration for the Hadley building are itemized on the Hadley Re-Use Committee site.

  • Why can't we preserve our neighborhood schools?

    Close proximity to schools is indeed a privilege – but one only afforded to some families in our community.  Swampscott has been flagged by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE)  as having too large of an economic discrepancy among our three schools. Since the closing of Machon School and the increase of students with special and diversified needs, the Swampscott school system continually must move programs and students between the three schools.

    This new school is an opportunity to create a town-wide ‘neighborhood school’ for ALL, not just some, of our youngest learners. By uniting our elementary students, teachers and resources in the twin elementary schools, we will provide ALL our K-4 students and teachers with access to modern learning spaces, and we will educate ALL Swampscott’s youngest learners more efficiently and equitably.

    We cannot let our antiquated, inequitable, and sub-par school conditions persist – and this is the most financially feasible option for our town to fix this problem. If we do not proceed now with the new twin elementary school, the Town will forgo up to $34,350,000 in grant funding from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) and Swampscott taxpayers will likely be required to fund 100% of the costs to replace/improve our elementary school. Moreover, the cost to renovate or replace our 3 elementary schools to make them 21st century schools will cost considerably more than the current proposal and will take years, if not decades, to complete. In the meantime, Swampscott’s students and teachers will continue to operate in outdated school buildings.

  • Where can I learn more?