A new Buckingham Elementary School is about to become more than a listing on the public school system’s wish list, now that the Worcester County Commissioners agreed to spend $60,000 on a design for the school’s replacement.

Following a presentation detailing the two options for the school on Main Street — renovation and replacement — the commissioners last week unanimously voted to fund a replacement design, firmly placing the county down the road to an eventual replacement.

Brad Hastings and two other representatives from developer Becker Morgan detailed how building a school, costing an estimated $55.9 million, would be nearly $10 million cheaper renovating the existing one.

According to the representatives, the classroom sizes at Buckingham are insufficient for the school’s needs. The cafeteria is undersized and can’t support a school-wide gathering. 

While a renovation would have included a two-story addition on the back of the school but little to address parking issues, a replacement will include a two-story addition but also move parking off West Street to alleviate the twice-daily Main Street backups.

The replacement design, according to the representatives, most efficiently meets square-footage requirements and, unlike the renovation model, will feature no windowless classrooms. Construction is also estimated to take less time with a rough estimate of breaking ground in December 2026 and concluding construction in the fall of 2028.

Commissioner Eric Fiori looked at the $200,000 price tag for demolishing the current school — which would occur over the preceding summer — and said he thought it was low for a 45,000-square-foot facility, but that $75,000 relocation for some classrooms seemed high.

“More is going to recycling and covering the cost, with site work here, they may be doing some onsite grinding with concrete, we see that more and more,” Hastings explained.

County schools Superintendent Lou Taylor added that they are only requesting approval of the feasibility study and recommendation for the replacement school right now, including $60,000 for design costs.

In another vote, the Commissioners voted 6-1, with Commissioner Ted Elder opposed, to form a committee that includes Commissioners Jim Bunting, Diana Purnell and Fiori as well as the Worcester County Board of Education to oversee the design process.

This story appears in the March 17, 2023 print edition of the OC Today.

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