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WATCH: The Hard Truths about the Elmwood School

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On August 14, HopNews sat down with Chair of the Elementary School Building Committee #2 Jon Graziano for a candid interview about the proposed Elmwood school. The school, which will come up for a vote at a special town meeting this Fall, has an estimated price tag of $160 million, an astounding figure that will have a direct impact on every Hopkinton taxpayer. 

The existing Elmwood school was built to house 650 students. Today it holds 626, but State demographers estimate this will grow to 774 students by 2032.

>> RELATED: Common Questions about the new Elmwood School and Hopkins Addition

According to Graziano, our only choices at this point are to “solve this very expensive problem as a community” or choose not to solve the problem. There are no half-measures available, he said. More than 41 building sites were contemplated as part of the committees’ work.

If Hopkinton voters approve the initiative at Town Meeting and the ballot box, the new school is slated to open in February 2027. If the measure fails, Hopkinton will likely be forced to wait until 2032, with several difficult compromises made at the existing Elmwood school, including modular classrooms on the playfield and children eating lunch as early as 9:30 AM to accommodate the 5 shifts necessary. 

Watch the full interview to learn more about the potential impact to Hayden Rowe residents, the design choices made to reduce traffic, and his worry that this initiative may price seniors and those living on a fixed income out of town. 


  1. Does anyone recall what the promises were when they proposed Legacy farm? I recall no impact to town due to over 55 and single bedroom units overwhelming the cost of additional children, which was supposed to be minimal. What happened? I’m not blaming the people who live there, I am simply asking whether the developer knowingly mislead the town to vote to allow the project.

    • It was the people who live here, not the developer. Just over 100 voters at Town Meeting rejected the over 55 development and it ended up being single family homes that taxed the school system.

    • 774 is only 20% more than the design capacity of 650. It boggles my mind that it will cost ONE HUNDRED SIXTY MILLION and 00/100 DOLLARS to cover that. That’s $206,000 PER STUDENT.

      Elmwood is already two floors. How about a third? That’s a 50% increase in classroom space.

      • It’s a nice idea, but practically speaking, it seems unlikely that a third floor could be added over the summer while students are not in the building. So how would that work? Doesn’t seem feasible during the school year to have construction going on overhead.

        Also, I thought he said 1,074. Maybe I misheard it.

  2. The hard truth, from my perspective, is that the tax impact from this project will price people out of town. Not only that, it will make the town unaffordable for anyone on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale who would like to live here. In this interview, this “hard truth” seems to be acknowledged, but framed as though we have no choice, and need to move ahead with the construction of the (most likely) largest elementary school in Massachusetts. We do have a choice, show up at town meeting and vote.

  3. Yes Uncle. I voted in favor and I do remember the promise- over 55. Minimal impact on schools. They projected no more than 5 school-aged children in the proposed development. You can’t make this stuff up…..oh wait

  4. The Town has already priced people out. Just look at the Real Estate Transactions. (Only 1 transaction under 400k in July) It was stated at Town Meeting that we have, as a town created this nightmare. People move in, use the schools, vote for all the bells and whistles, and then move out when their kids are educated. Put Legacy Farms on top of that, and the Developer selling off pieces of the land to other developers who could care less about the Town (and the ramifications to our neighboring towns, yes, Vin Gately, I’m referring to you) and we are in this predicament. We have to stop this cycle – new schools are going to have to wait. How about the empty buildings on South Street? Has that been discussed?

    • If you listen to the interview, he mentions that they looked at multiple options and that the buildings on South Street would be expensive to purchase and renovate for school use. Schools have specific needs and codes that those buildings were not built to include.

        • How does it not make sense? Those were built as office buildings, not classrooms with gym spaces. The latter is probably easier to put in, but it’s probably not that easy to convert. And we’d have to buy the land and building.

          If you are referencing that it doesn’t make sense that there are educational standards and codes, pretty sure that isn’t going to change.

    • Yes, the South St buildings option is covered in the Common Questions articles linked in the story. In fact, it addresses several of the questions raised by others in the comments section and is definitely worth a read. My children attended and just aged out of Elmwood, but I still support a new building. Beyond the sizing issues, there are real health concerns about the building materials used 1960s (lead, PCBs, and asbestos). Hopkinton is situated a commutable distance from Boston, Providence, and Worcester. It’s not going to stop growing anytime soon. And while taxes are going up, so are property values, but if there concerns about taxes pricing existing retirees out of town than let’s review the means-based senior tax relief program and adjust it as appropriate.

      HopNews, is there a way to analyze the tax impact of schools by year as a percentage of the tax bill? The cost of everything is increasing, but I’d be interested to see if we’re spending a higher portion of our total taxes to support schools or if that has remained fairly consistent over time.

      • An excellent suggestion, Mr. Townsley. As it happens, we’ve been reviewing Annual Town Reports recently. The short answer to your question is: The spending has remained consistent. The operating budget and debt payments for school projects has averaged 56% of the total General Fund budget for the past 5 years. Note that the school budget was curiously left out of the 2020 report (we’ve filed an information request for this) so we’ve plugged in an estimate of $48mm for that year.

        click for full size
        Another note: This only includes the General Fund. It does not include Pay-as-you-Go projects and other capital projects for schools that were approved at Town Meeting. The total is larger when those are contemplated.

  5. I don’t use Marathon as the template. I refer to the high school. It was built for at least 1000 students, I don’t recall. Maybe 1200. $35 million, of which the state kicked in 2/3.

    Marathon – $40 million for 400 kids that are 6 years old sounds crazy to start with. And Marathon was full before the paint was dry and if memory serves needed 4 more classrooms at a million a pop.

    Why didn’t the demographer for Marathon understand that HUNDREDS OF UNITS of school age families were clamoring to get in? Were they operating in a vacuum? Why didn’t anyone from town enlighten them?

    • MSBA helps fund the construction of schools based on current enrollment not future enrollment projections. That’s how it works. end of debate.

      • Just because you have a bad methodology in place doesn’t mean you should continue to use it. Learn from your mistakes and adapt. Get some actuaries to run the numbers.

      • Where are you getting that from Rosesr? This is from the MSBA website:

        MSBA Enrollment Methodology

        The Massachusetts School Building Authority (“MSBA”) works with local communities to create affordable, sustainable, and energy efficient schools across Massachusetts. A critical early component in achieving these objectives begins with an appropriate design enrollment that positions the district to efficiently meet space capacity needs throughout future enrollment variations. Based on an agreed upon design enrollment, the MSBA collaborates with each district and its designer to aggressively pursue strategies to create right-sized facilities that are more affordable to construct and less costly to operate and maintain.

    • when Marathon came up for a vote, it was a middle school. outside stone wall sign was put in with MIDDLE school displayed in it . it was changed to an elementary school without towns people input. maybe that ws the problem of its being unsuitable for size?

  6. I remember being told no one with kids will move into a two bedroom apartment. What nonsense. Of course folks will. Ever hear of bunk beds?

    The whole Legacy Farms ‘debate’ was a debacle. The town had to buy the land outright while the builder could do all sorts of fenagling with the financing.

    Then the town moderator let the owner of Weston Nurseries drone on forever when there was supposed to be a minutes limit per person.

    And then town folk insisting they weren’t going to spend their money to preserve open space.

    Penny wise, pound foolish.

  7. Where’s the Planning Board???
    What type of “planning “ have they done?
    Narrow Main Street so that the bike path is bigger than the road!!
    Traffic jams on West Main
    Hundreds of kids from Legacy Farms
    What planning?


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