WESTBOROUGH – A special Town Meeting may be on the horizon in Westborough to replace a section of the Armstrong Elementary School roof that has failed.
The roof has been a topic of discussion at recent School Committee and Select Board meetings, with town and school leaders recently emphasizing a need to move quickly as material costs rise.
“To me, the evidence is there,” Select Board Chair Ian Johnson said on April 26. “We need to do this. We need to move forward.”
Superintendent Amber Bock told the School Committee back on April 13 that one of the sections of Armstrong’s roof had failed. That section of the roof dates back to 1996.
“The roof is well beyond its life,” Bock said.
Specifically, Bock said there was a 20-foot tear.
A consultant from the Garland Company was “clear” that the repairs to and maintenance of the roof had been excellent, she said.
“But it’s basically a structural failure of the PVC material and it’s just breaking down at this point,” Bock continued.
There are four sections of the building’s roof. This section in question spans about 22,500 square feet.
Work to repair the roof is one of three roof projects in the town’s capital planning cycle, having been planned for the 2022 fiscal year following a 2021 district roof assessment report.
The district submitted replacing the whole roof into the capital plan for 2023 as a top priority project, but it was later bumped to Fiscal Year 2025 to focus on roof repairs at Westborough’s Hastings Elementary School.
All roof items were then passed over and moved further down the capital planning list, though.
According to Bock’s presentation, staff made initial emergency repairs with sealcoating when water began leaking into rooms through the deteriorating Armstrong roof.
“The thing that’s the most concerning about it is it didn’t occur for any specific reason,” Bock said. “It wasn’t put under stress. There wasn’t anything that particularly happened. We weren’t running around up there. We didn’t drop anything on it, and it’s just breaking down. It’s a pretty large tear.”
Bock noted that staff responded “very quickly.”
As officials have noted the urgency of this situation, in later meetings, staff also said that mold tests have come back clear.
“I want to be reassuring to our families that their classrooms are in good shape,” Bock said.
Addressing the roof
During the April 13 School Committee meeting, Bock proposed fixing about 5,000 square-feet of the roof, which she estimated would cost between $38,000 and $50,000.
Bock suggested funding this emergency repair could be followed by a Town Meeting article in the fall to replace the full 22,400-square-foot section of the roof, which is estimated to cost about $1.1 million.
At that time, some School Committee members expressed concerns about repairing only part of the roof and wasting funds when the whole section of the roof is replaced.
“Inflation right now is killing us,” said member Stephen Doret during an April 26 Select Board meeting.
Doret also noted that, under the proposed timeline, the roof may not be fixed until some time between March and June of next year, allowing more water to potentially leak into the Armstrong school’s insulation.
Garland’s Adam Silun told the School Committee on April 27, one day after that Select Board meeting, that insulation, which is part of roof projects, is scarce.
“It’s like gold right now,” Silun said. “You can’t find it. They’re naming their price when people go to place their orders.”
The quicker bids are received, the more money will be saved, he said.
When the project was presented to the Select Board on April 26, members expressed support for moving forward quickly and developing a bid package for the project.
The Select Board also voiced support for replacing the whole section and calling a special Town Meeting to consider approving the project once a bid is acquired.