Summary of Summit Meeting, February 25, 2015

Members of the School Committee, Board of Selectmen, Capital Expenditures Committee and Appropriation Committee met to discuss the school capital projects.

The group reviewed the latest draft of the “School Building Project Consensus Plan,” which outlines the consensus position of the boards and committees on school capital projects. Comments included:

  • the wording of the motion for Town Meeting will be important
  • the proposed date for a debt exclusion vote of end of 2015/early 2106 may be too early.
  • how exactly will the SC and BoS work together during the initial planning process?
  • MSBA should be mentioned in the document.

Margaret Coppe presented a slide deck outlining the elements of the school capital projects. She noted that on February 24, the SC voted to request funding at the 3/23 Special Town Meeting related to the following projects:

  • a new stand-alone or attached pre-K (at Hastings or Harrington)
  • prefabricated classrooms at Bridge and Bowman
  • Hastings replacement
  • study brick and mortar at Fiske and Harrington

She then described each of the elements. She noted that the SC had not voted on whether to pursue standard modulars or pre-fabricated classrooms at Fiske.

She noted that the SC investigated possible additions at Estabrook. Building on the roof garden is not feasible. Modulars on the south side of the school are possible with great difficulty.

On redistricting, she proposed putting together a staff study group to look at enrollment statistics and provide data to the SC. Next, a task force would be established to address immediate and long-term redistricting needs. SC would develop policy based on information gathered. This will not be complete in time for Special Town Meeting on 3/23.

Under Article 2 at Special Town Meeting #1, the SC will request $4,080,000 for various parts of the various projects. See discussion of Jon Himmel’s presentation below.

A member of the CEC asked whether the Fiske ILP program could be moved. Jessie Steigerwald explained that it cannot because state law requires that all ILP students have time in which they are included in a general education classroom. Also, given the high needs of the students in the ILP program at Fiske, transitions to new settings are extremely challenging and could set those students months behind.

Jessie also explained that because Fiske has four classrooms devoted to the ILP program, it is not a 4-section school, i.e., there are not enough classrooms for each grade to have 4 general ed classes.

Jon Himmel, a member of the Permanent Building Committee, presented a chart of softcost budget items, broken down by project. He described that if the SC requests $4,080,000, the SC will initially have access to $1,414,000 to pursue concept confirmation on all proposed projects, and schematics at Diamond (bricks and prefab), Clarke, Bridge, Bowman, and Fiske, and pre-schematics and programming at the pre-K. After consultation with the finance committees on the results of that work, the School Committee will work with the BoS to determine which projects should be pursued — probably in July 2015. The BoS will then release the remaining $2,666,000 for design development through bidding on the pre-fabs and the interior Harrington renovation (pre-K to gen ed) and just design development on the Diamond and Pre-K brick & mortar projects.

Jon Himmel also presented a construction schedule showing construction funds being sought for the pre-fab projects, Diamond brick & mortar, and Harrington renovation at a fall 2015 Special Town Meeting, and construction funds for a new Hastings being sought in June, 2016.

The timeline shows the prefabs available in Sept 2016, Diamond and Harrington in Sept 2017, and Hastings in April, 2019.

There was concern among the group about going for two separate debt exclusion votes.

Rob Adelson noted that we would borrow the $4,080,000. If the work leads to construction, the debt could be rolled into the debt exclusion for construction funds, but if it doesn’t lead to construction for particular projects, it has a short 5-yr borrowing term. He noted that specific amounts for specific projects do not need to be noted in the motion, but spending will need to be accounted for separately.

One member of the AC suggested taking the $4 million from the stabilization fund instead to give more flexibility.

The discussion turned to whether to add standard modulars or prefabs to Fiske. There was a consensus among the finance committees and BoS that prefabs were a better value because they last 20 years instead of 3 years.

A member of the AC acknowledged that even if standard modulars were a worse value, they may be necessary because of timing needs, but that pre-fabs offer predictable capacity for the long-term.

Another member of the AC noted that standard modulars are quicker, less expensive — also a responsible path.

One SC member noted that it was important to preserve programs like, art and music, and the spending $4 million on pre-fabs might hurt chances of building brick & mortar in the future. There is also the concern that TM may not approve $ for pre-fabs.

Bill Hurley noted that adding pre-fabs were a way to avoid adding a brick & mortar addition to Fiske.

Joe Pato noted that he is not concerned about pre-fabs having a shorter life than the building because there is so much uncertainty about what will happen at the end of their lifespan – 20 years.

The BoS and finance committees took a break, and the SC continued to deliberate on standards versus pre-fabs. Sandro reiterated his support for standards because of the immediate needs at Fiske in gen ed and in the ILP program, and because he is concerned about foreclosing brick & mortar. Judy said she did not support standard modulars but “reluctantly” supported pref-fabs because she was concerned there was not support for brick & mortar at Fiske, and because she thought Kindergartners at Fiske could be redistricted next year. Jessie noted that Bridge and Bowman are suffering too and they’re getting pre-fabs.

The SC voted 3-2 to ask for pre-fabs rather than standard modulars at Fiske. Crocker, Hurley, and Steigerwald in the majority.

That resolved the last main outstanding issue in the consensus document, and the meeting was adjourned.


School Committee Meeting – March 10, 2015

Superintendent/School Comm Member Announcements:

  • Dr. Ash gave an update about the Bridge School evacuation from last week; collapsing ice/snow fell off the roof and caused an alarming sound; no structural engineering issues were found.
  • Margaret Coppe (speaking for School Committee) had presented Youth At Risk study to Board of Selectmen

Reorganization:

  • Margaret Coppe resigned as School Committee Chair (she served as Chair for 2 years); Jessie Steigerwald was elected Chair; Bill Hurley was elected Vice Chair (there was no Vice Chair previously).
  • Leading up to the reorganization, discussion took place around whether to wait until after Special Town Meeting to make reorganization changes.
  • The School Committee voted (3-2) in favor of making leadership changes.
  • School Committee will wait to discuss Officer roles (e.g., should someone other than Chair be responsible for submitting meeting minutes?) as well as revisit liaison roles for School Committee members.

Governor’s Budget:

  • Dr. Ash presented potential impact to LPS budget as a result of potential budget cuts by Governor Baker.
  • Potential impact of $227,000 that pays the cost of K instructional assistants and $251,525 in special education reimbursements.
  • School Committee decided to follow Dr. Ash’s recommendation of “do nothing at this time” given how early things are in the budget process at the state and federal level and likely changes.
  • School Comm will look into mechanics around potentially seeking stabilization funds (should they be needed down the road). However, School Comm will not seek these funds from Town Meeting at this time.

Contract Extensions:

  • School Comm voted to extend employment contracts for Carol Pilarksi (Asst. Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Learning, Central Office) and Ellen Sugita (Director of Special Education) for 3 years and 2 years respectively.

School Building Project Consensus Plan

  • Voted to “move forward with technical redistricting study to explore redistricting plans that would…shift school density towards Estabrook” as per Consensus Plan.
  • Voted to approve Consensus Plan for School Building Project (which summarizes the consensus position of the Board of Selectmen, School Committee, Appropriation Committee, and Capital Expenditures Committee). Can be found here.

Town Meeting Articles:

  • The School Committee voted in support of Special Town Meeting 1, Article 2 (to support $4mm in design/construction feasibility funds) as well as several other articles that relate to schools.
  • Upcoming Meetings:
    • Public Hearing about LPS Mission and Homework Policy: Wed, March19 at 10:00 a.m. Central Office Building
    • School Comm Mtg on Mon, March 23, 6:30 pm at LHS Library Media Center (before Special Town Meeting 1)

School Committee Meeting – Feb 10, 2015

Minutes from School Committee – Feb 10, 2015

1) During announcements Pat Goddard did mention cracked beam in gym. He said last time the repair was $30k, and that they are going to use same method to repair new cracked beam (in different place than 2011) so estimate was 3-4 weeks. He also mentioned at the end of meeting (in context of FY16 capital budget) that he is asking for a bucket truck for a 3rd electrician (who is shared across municipal/schools budget) which would be used for many things including ice dam/leaking repairs such as the ones at Hastings [at least happening in a K classroom]. (As an aside, in Pat’s announcements he also mentioned that at Bridge yesterday the hot water heater broke.)

2) There was much discussion around how Hastings capacity should be stated given reports, the building plan, we aren’t sure when new bldg would be online, etc.

* Dr. Ash stated that he feels capacity should be 420 (and probably a bit less).
* He explained that while 21.6 is a Lexington general class size/capacity (though younger grades are lower and upper grades higher), due to the ILP program at Hastings the appropriate Hastings number is 20.
* Using 21 classrooms and his estimated Hastings classroom capacity of 20 students, 20×21=420.
* They also worked through an MSBA calculation of 300 as Hastings capacity (for when we are using other MSBA equivalent numbers and want to be consistent, and b/c “at some point the modulars will go away as they are past their useful lives”)
* That was determined b/c 8 modular classrooms go away; 23 students = MSBA class size/capacity; 13×23=299

3) There was a lot of good conversation about what additional capacity the big building plan is actually creating, and whether it is going to meet the Enrollment Working Group projections (eg., whether we build capacity for midpoint of estimated growth, and/or estimated growth for 5 years out, which is roughly 12 addit. classrooms, or whether we build out for 10 years, or 18-24 or even 24-26 classrooms, the latter of which is what Dr. Ash is recommending. Fiske and Harrington referenced given they are new schools and too small 5-10 years later. We don’t want to spend over $100 mm to build for 5 year when we should be looking out 10 years. We don’t want to underbuild.

4) In prep for a Summit meeting tonight, there was also meaty conversation about possible redistricting students to Estabrook or Hastings (to answer repeated questions from BoS and Finance Comm’s around being responsible and using that space). The Hastings capacity issues were addressed pretty quickly when Dr. Ash took everyone through the rationale for Hastings class size (referenced in #2 above) for ILP program and need to keep Hastings classrooms smaller. He confirmed that there are indeed NOT 2 extra classrooms (or 46 seats) available at Hastings to use and that in MSBA terms we are severely overcrowded. As for Estabrook, the group arrived at the conclusion that bussing kids from across town to Estabrook isn’t going to allow us to spend less on construction, but will cost us money in operating budget dollars due to bussing costs. SC members mentioned that it would be like “inconveniencing families just as a nice gesture to other Committees” and didn’t make sense right now. But there was conversation about applying the 3 open classrooms at Estabrook when accounting for the “additional” classrooms needed for the next 5-10 years (the 12-24 classroom discussion).

5) With regard to planning for SOI and non-SOI Hastings, Pat. Goddard mentioned that the $800k in funds being asked for at STM in March, it includes studies/schematics in enough detail that they would meet MSBA standards so they would not have to be done again if we received MSBA funding next year.


Summary of the Lexington Overcrowding Issue

We would like to update the Hastings community about the latest discussions and key meetings among Town Committees such as School Committee, Board of Selectmen, Appropriation Committee, and Capital Expenditures Committee as it relates to a new Hastings. This document outlines the design, engineering, and architectural services for plans and specifications for several school capital expenditures, including Hastings, and what you can do to help.

Government process thus far:  

  • In December 2014, the School Committee requested that the Board of Selectmen call a Special Town Meeting to ask for funds for a design study for several school projects.
  • The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously in January to call a Special Town Meeting to take place on March 23, 2015.
  • In late February, the Board of Selectmen, School Committee, Appropriation Committee, and Capital Expenditures Committee drafted a “consensus document” to summarize the position of the Lexington Budget Summit (Board of Selectmen, School Committee, Appropriation Committee, and Capital Expenditures Committee) regarding Article 2 of the March 2015 Special Town Meeting #1. The latest version of this can be found here:  http://www.lexingtonma.gov/Selectmen/2015%20TownMeeting/School%20Building%20Project%20Consensus%20Plan.pdf
  • The “consensus document” outlines the group’s desire to pursue large brick-and-mortar projects at Hastings and Diamond, and to only pursue brick-and-mortar projects at Fiske or Clarke should the larger two projects not provide sufficient capacity.  While Clarke and Fiske projects would be considered during feasibility work, they would be backup options for down the road.

March 23rd Special Town Meeting: the School Committee will present the need for the design study funds, ~$4 million, based on increasing enrollment numbers, status of building function, and the specific programs to be kept running.

  • Design study funds are needed to assess whether or not the proposed school projects can move forward into construction. For example, the study results will tell us whether or not the land behind Hastings can support a new and bigger school, by testing the soil and landscape.
  • In addition to the study of the Hastings site, the $4 million in design study funds would also cover things like the location of a standalone pre-K program and/or whether it could be added to a new Hastings or some other location, prefabricated classrooms at Bridge, Bowman, Fiske, Clarke, and Diamond, a brick and mortar project at Diamond, and potential brick and mortar projects at Fiske and Clarke.
  • In order to pass the appropriation of funds in Special Town Meeting, ⅔ of Town Meeting must vote in favor (there are 189 town meeting members total). This $4 million is a portion of the total estimated cost of over $100 million to complete construction of all of the proposed school projects mentioned above. No matter which projects will be eventually built, funding for a feasibility study will need to be spent.

Once the design study is completed:

  • Projects are chosen by the School Committee, and costs are finalized.
  • A special election for town voters will be needed in the fall or early winter to approve a debt exclusion to pay for the building projects.

MSBA funding assistance for rebuilding Hastings:

  • The Statement of Interest for Hastings submitted last year (2014) to the MSBA was not accepted.
  • Later this month, the superintendent will re-submit another SOI for a request in assistance to rebuild Hastings based on 3 priorities:
    • Elimination of existing severe overcrowding (both town wide and within the school – MSBA does not consider the modulars at Hastings in their calculations of existing space);
    • Replacement, renovation, or modernization of school facility systems;
    • Replacement of or addition to obsolete buildings in order to provide a full range of programs consistent with state and approved local requirements.
  • MSBA will decide at the end of 2015 or early 2016 if Hastings will be included in its state-assistance projects.
  • If the MSBA approves Hastings, the town will decide whether or not to accept their offer with assistance. If the town accepts the state’s assistance, the town would be required to build a new Hastings on the state’s timeline and size recommendations. This process can take at least 2 years longer than if the town funds Hastings alone without state assistance.
  • At the March 23rd Special Town Meeting mentioned above, the School Committee, the Board of Selectmen, the Appropriation Committee, and the Capital Expenditures Committee are recommending that the town approve the design, engineering, and architectural services for these projects before we find out if Hastings gets state assistance late this year. These studies will need to be done whether Hastings is accepted into the state program or not.
Concerned parents can do the following:

 

Thank you for taking the time to become informed and if you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact PTA Presidents Sharon Musto and Lin Jensen or Hastings Site Council Parent Chair Dan Strollo as noted below.

Sharon Musto
781-572-6648
president@hastings-pto.org

Lin Jensen
781-325-5237
president@hastings-pto.org

Dan Strollo
617-306-6264
Dan@Strollo.net


December 10, 2014 – Superintendent Finalists Announced

The Superintendent Search Committee named Mary Czajkowski, George Entwistle and Kaine Osburn as finalists for the superintendent of schools position at a School Committee meeting on Wednesday, December 10th.

Dr. Czajkowski is the superintendent of Barnstable Public Schools, Dr. Entwistle is superintendent of Scarborough Public Schools in Scarborough, Maine, and Mr. Osburn is the deputy superintendent of the Naperville Community Unit School District 203 in Naperville, Illinois.

The three finalists will be interviewed by the School Committee next week. Mr. Osburn is scheduled to visit Lexington on Monday, December 15th, Dr. Entwistle on Wednesday, December 17th, and Dr. Czajkowski on Thursday, December 18th. Each candidate will visit Lexington, tour the district, meet with staff members before being interviewed.

While each finalist is in Lexington they will attend an hour-long reception that will be open to the public at 2:30 p.m. at Lexington High School, 251 Waltham St., in the Library Media Center. This will be open to the community and a great chance to meet the finalists.


School Committee Meeting – November 18, 2014

Amidst the many recent School Committee meetings focused on enrolment and overcrowding was the regularly scheduled meeting on Nov. 18, that did not have this issue on the agenda.  This meeting included:

1) a report from the Ad Hoc Committee on Youth at Risk, emphasizing recommendations to address student stress

2) a report from the special education department about efforts to address concerns from a parent survey conducted in 2012-2013, including results from an ongoing parent survey.

Please see the following link for all relevant materials.