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BELCHERTOWN — Residents will soon have an opportunity to decide how to proceed with the Jabish Brook Middle School project during the upcoming special town election and special Town Meeting.

The special Town Election is scheduled for June 17 with voting open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the gymnasium in Belchertown High School, as stated in the warrant. With this vote, residents will decide whether to build the new school, Jabish Brook Building Committee Chair Heidi Gutekenst told Reminder Publishing. The vote requires a simple majority to pass.

Following the election, a special Town Meeting will occur at the same location at 7 p.m. on June 24. This vote will decide whether funding will be allotted for the project and requires a two-thirds majority to pass, Gutekenst explained.

Across the two votes, the Jabish Brook Middle School building project is proposing a 113,900-square-foot new school located on the same property as the current building. The new school will accommodate 475 students across grades 6-8 and include separated drop-off areas for buses and families, outdoor dining, new athletic fields, a full basketball court, and a division of academic classrooms from spaces used by the community, such as the gymnasium and cafeteria, the Building Committee said. The new school will have an estimated lifespan of at least 50 years.

With approval of the project, Cold Spring School would close and be returned to town ownership. This would result in an estimated savings of $450,000- $500,000 per year, the Building Committee stated. Following this change, Swift River Elementary would teach pre-K to grade 2 and Chestnut Hill Community School would teach grades 3-5 while Belchertown High School would remain with grades 9-12.

The Jabish Brook Middle School building project first began in early 2023 as a way to address needed repairs at the current school, such as a lack of fire protection, undersized classrooms and a poor cooling system, the Building Committee said.

Overall, the project cost for the town is estimated at $74.6 million with a 39% reimbursement rate from the Massachusetts School Building Authority. This translates to approximately $47.9 million in funds toward the project, the Building Committee stated. For the average accessed home value of $381,000, this would create an estimated annual tax increase of $815.

If the Jabish Brook Middle School building project is not approved at the election and Town Meeting, then the necessary repairs for the school, which is estimated at $88 million, would be paid by the town without financial support from the state, according to the Building Committee. Cold Spring School would also remain open. This base repair option would not address educational improvements at school and an additional Town Meeting would be required to approve its costs.

After Belchertown’s voting on June 17 and 24, the MSBA will conduct their own vote to approve the project during their monthly meeting on June 26, Gutekenst stated. If approval is reached from all three votes, then the Jabish Brook Building Committee will begin the bidding process, she said. The new school would open in fall 2027.

For more information about the project, visit the Jabish Brook Middle School building project page on the Belchertown Public Schools website.

A video of the new school plans is also available at youtube.com/watch?v=91tTWV8wHFE.

lmason@thereminder.com | + posts