There are three possible uses for the Bethany property, any of which would mean a significant, long-term ability to serve the educational and recreational needs of the families who reside in the area. Currently, the district has no schools in the area and virtually every student is riding a bus to school. Developing a school on this site would not only serve the neighborhood, but also reduce the number of students needing busing. This property actually connects with the former Roosevelt School that once served this neighborhood, but the school was taken down and the property is currently used as a park.
The first and most immediate use of the property would be in response to a possible invitation from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) to build a new middle school. The district did commission a pre-feasibility study in support of the Statement of Interest (SOI) and that study identified 8 possible options for addressing the need to replace the Fuller School. The acquiring of the Bethany property would allow for a 9th option to be developed using the site for a new middle school, which would be an excellent location once Fuller Middle School is closed. This site is also potentially large enough to support a K-8 school that would address two challenges that the district faces – a replacement school for Fuller Middle School and an elementary school in a part of town that currently has no neighborhood elementary school.
The second potential use of the site, if the Fuller Middle School is replaced by using its current site, would be for a new elementary school at some point in the near future. The district’s long range facility plan calls for a periodic renovation/replacement of three elementary schools over the next 10-15 years. If this property was available, the district might reconsider renovating/replacing an older school and using the funds to build a new school on this site. Given that the district has more schools north of Route 9 than it needs to serve the population in those neighborhoods, it would be prudent to begin thinking about building more capacity south of Route 9 where the population of the town continues to grow, and will continue to grow given the availability of multiple family dwellings and apartments.
The third potential use of the site might be for a future school need that could emerge if the district’s enrollment continues to grow and there is a need for additional school capacity at any level, including high school. This site has the potential to grow to a full 73+ acres should the town secure and execute options to buy the remaining parcels when they become available. In addition, the fact that the Roosevelt property is contiguous to the Bethany property increases the potential development for school and other town uses such that the site could support multiple school and other town facilities in a neighborhood that is densely populated and stable.
The Bethany site is a unique opportunity for the Town to acquire a strategically important site for its current and future purposes. The site is probably the only one of its size and capacity within the Route 495 belt, so it does have extraordinary appeal to developers or other entities looking for a “campus” site. It also has the added advantage of a venue possessing tremendous views as well as a site that has no history of environmental issues as many properties south of Route 9 do have. The current owners have indicated that they are very interested in the future owners and their use of the site since they will co-occupy the site for some time into the future. As such, they want to see the site used for educational and recreational purposes, preferably to benefit the Framingham neighborhoods that have shared this site for many years. Clearly, the Town represents the best opportunity to meet these expectations with the development of a new school or schools coupled with the Town’s potential to create new recreational fields and facilities that would make excellent use of the site for the entire Town of Framingham.