Orange investing in the future of its children

It would seem that the people of Orange are willing to invest in the future of their children.

They have approved spending serious money to determine the best way to modernize the facilities used to educate the 330 students in grades 3 through 6. That might mean renovating and expanding the Dexter Park School, or possibly replacing it altogether. The Dexter Park School was built in the early 1950s and currently houses 332 in grades 3 through 6.

Voters at town meeting approved spending $179,375, but more importantly, they ratified that decision by a more than 2 to 1 margin in the privacy of the ballot booth, where these kinds of projects often go down in flames.

The money is the town’s share of an $875,000 feasibility study. The state will pay the $695,625, or 79 percent. This kind of commitment usually means towns have pretty much decided they have a problem they need to fix and are willing to follow through with construction of whatever solution the study recommends. The state will pay 79 percent of construction costs as well.

It would seem townspeople have rightly decided they need to move forward. The question is what move to make. The feasibility study will allow Orange residents to make an informed choice.

The study first recommends a course of action and then produces schematic designs of the building or renovation — probably sometime in 2019. 

After that, the taxpayers will have to spring for the construction costs, in the millions, but it’s hard to find a better deal than the state paying 80 percent of the tab.

School officials have indicated the loan payments for an elementary school project would probably not come online until debt payments for Mahar Regional construction phase out. That way voters won’t see a jump in current tax rates because of the new project.

We have to agree with the arguments for this spending, which so far have carried the day: that Dexter Park School is functionally obsolete, a fact that cannot be remedied with short-term repairs and patches; that the town is more likely to continue to attract highly qualified teachers with a modern facility; and that the town is more likely to attract businesses and young families who are engaged in the community by investing in it. And, oh yes, let’s not forget the town’s children.

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Athol Daily News

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