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.