Town Election Determines Fate of Walpole Schools


Photo/ Katie Gillis

Katie Gillis , Editor-in-Chief

Election Day in Walpole is approaching once again, a first for many Walpole High School students who have recently turned 18. Although there is only one question on this ballot, it has the potential to leave a great impact on the town’s financial and educational future for decades to come. 

“Shall the Town of Walpole be allowed to exempt from the provisions of proposition two and one-half, so-called, the amounts required to pay for the bonds issued in order to construct and furnish a new grade 6-8 combined middle school at 625 Washington Street, Walpole, MA, the same parcel of land as the current Bird School, including demolition, site preparation and the payment of all other costs incidental or related thereto?” the ballot question says. 

In simple terms, the question asks residents whether Walpole should fund the building of a brand new, combined middle school on the site of the current Bird Middle School. This topic has been up for debate over the last few years, however, after the project recently received approval from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), the decision is finally up to Walpole voters. 

If the town were to vote in favor of this school (“yes” on the ballot), this would mean a sizable increase in property taxes for Walpole residents. The school is estimated to cost $115,768,814 in total, $77,794,533 of which the Town of Walpole would be responsible to pay for after the state’s aid. 

To gain these funds, the town must gain a debt exclusion, which is essentially a massive mortgage paid for by a temporary increase in residents’ tax rates. For an average home in Walpole, worth an estimated $556,000, this tax would increase by an estimated $36.50 per month for 30 years. 

Many Walpole residents are concerned by this rise in tax rates, especially because the world is still amidst a pandemic that has devastated both local and national economies. Additionally, the town has also recently funded an upgraded library, police station, senior center and sports complex that have not been paid off yet. 

However, to vote against the new school (“no” on the ballot), may be just as harmful for Walpole’s future. Bird Middle School was built in 1961 and Johnson Middle School was built in 1966; both buildings are outdated and no longer support modern education to the extent needed. To continue to upgrade these buildings instead of building an entirely new one may be putting off the inevitable.  Additionally, if Walpole voted no, the state would withdraw its aid that the town has waited years for, which could make this process much more expensive in the future. This new school would also increase property values, potentially causing an increase to Walpole’s already growing population. An influx of new residents could help pay for the school itself, at least in part. 

This ballot is for a simple majority, meaning that either side would only need 50% to win the vote. Polls are open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, November 2. This decision could potentially change Walpole’s future in the long term, so if you are eligible, get out and vote this Tuesday!