Shrewsbury receives $1.9M for Oak Middle School repairs

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Shrewsbury receives $1.9M for Oak Middle School repairs
Oak Middle School is located at 45 Main Street in Shrewsbury. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)

SHREWSBURY – Superintendent of Schools Joseph Sawyer received word that the district has been awarded a grant in the amount of $1,890,419 to be used toward repairs at the Oak Middle School.

Sawyer made the announcement at the March 1 School Committee meeting. The grant, awarded by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) through its Accelerated Repairs Program, will be used to replace windows and doors at the school.

The grant represents 48.5% to the total cost of the project, estimated at $3,899,876. The town is responsible for the remaining $2,009,457. As a capital expense, it would need to be approved at the upcoming annual Town Meeting.

“I want to thank Keith Baldinger, the assistant director of the Department of Public Works for his outstanding work to start to move this forward,” said Sawyer. “The project will now come into Shrewsbury in terms of looking at what’s possible relative to supplies and timing.”

According to Sawyer, the grant request had been submitted some time ago, but that the MSBA had put the grant program on hold due to funding issues, delaying the process.

School Department asks for public input

Sawyer also announced that the school district was asking for input from the public relative to its ongoing strategic planning process. It has launched an online Thought Exchange to gauge feedback.

“We’re essentially looking for feedback on what people value about our schools now that people would like to see preserved, and what is it in the next five years, if you think about our strategic goals and priorities, what are we looking for to best support our students in the future?” Sawyer said.

According to Sawyer, the responses will be looked at and evaluated by Focus Schools, the consulting firm coordinating the strategic planning process, as well as the district leadership team.

Residents can participate in the “Thought Exchange” by logging onto https://my.thoughtexchange.com/scroll/888780176/welcome.

2023-24 school year calendar approved

The School Committee unanimously voted to approve the 2023-24 school year calendar as recommended by Sawyer.

At the Feb. 15 meeting, dozens of members of Shrewsbury’s Hindu community were in attendance in support of adding the Hindu holiday Diwali to the calendar as a “no school” day. During that meeting and again on March 1, Sawyer outlined his support for the existing district policy, in place since 2005, which did not include religious holidays of any type as “no school days” unless mandated by state or federal law.

Committee member Sandra Fryc said she appreciated the input she and the committee had received from the public on this matter and said she felt the district could do a better job communicating with residents on this issue.

“At this point, I agree with Dr. Sawyer. As we sit here today, we have a policy students can use. We definitely need to do a better job of explaining [the policy]. That’s something we’re definitely lacking in,” she said.

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