School Committee Meeting – December 15, 2015

School Committee Meeting Notes from December 15

The agenda and corresponding information packet for the meeting can be found here.

  • Capital Projects update (post special town meeting #1) – by Dr. Czajkowski – modulars at Fiske, Bowman and Bridge (and possibly Estabrook) are to provide relief only and not an opportunity to redistrict students into those modulars.
  • Placement and distribution (how many modulars per proposed school) by the end of January 2016. Pat Goddard confirmed that date.
  • Redistricting for fall 2016 could affect the number needed at each school. While consultants may not have their finding completed before January, Pat Goddard stated there would still be time to change quanties per location after January.
  • Elementary World Language reintroduction (cut in 2006) was discussed with a new timetable, budget line item request and needed committees were suggested. The School Committee expressed their concerns with costs but also excitement about world language enrichment for our elementary students.  Public comment was expressed in favor of program. 3-2 voted in favor of a position to be created to work with the Superintended to formulate an Elementary World Language program.

School Committee Meeting – December 1, 2015

Agenda for the meeting can be found here.

At the School Committee Meeting on Tuesday, December 1 the School Committee discussed the multiple school projects being considered as part of the capital plan. The Committee spent time with the Superintendent and Director of Public Facilities preparing for and clarifying their motions and recommendations for the Special Town Meeting #1 and the Board of Selectman meeting to be held Wednesday, December 2.

They approved a broad motion for the Town Meeting asking for $5,386,000 for the design, engineering, and architectural plans for new school buildings and additions, including the purchase of up to 6 modulars for elementary school use. Continued planning for a new Hastings is included in this amount. There was conversation about whether the Committee wanted to recommend leasing or purchasing the modulars. The ultimate consensus was that they would recommend purchasing the modulars as the more fiscally responsible and flexible option. The Superintendent requested that the School Committee allow school administration to come back to them with a specific recommendation for how to best use the additional spaces at elementary schools. The Superintendent expressed comfort, in general, with asking for up to 6 modulars.

The Chairman also asked if others were interested in reconsidering a brick and mortar possibility at Harrington. This included conversation about LCP and the considerations around whether or not LCP should have a free standing building or be part of an elementary school. Interest was expressed in asking to receive additional design and schematics for a brick and mortar addition to Harrington. There were concerns that without this consideration the town may not be addressing the overcrowding at the elementary school level. Director of Public Facilities, Pat Goddard, requested that the Committee wait until they receive the Harrington report due from DeNisco in December. Once they have that report in hand, they can consider what additional work they might want to consider.

There also was conversation around the middle school needs and the options presented at the Nov 17 meeting. The middle school principals both encouraged the School Committee to recognize that choosing the second option, which did not include additions to Clarke, meant endorsing middle school class sizes at both schools of 28 – 29 students. They suggested the optimal class size to be 22 – 25 students. There also was recognition that some of the class size tension Lexington experiences is, counter intuitively, due to the plethora of class offerings (ex. choice of world languages, math levels, etc), in addition to the team sizes.

The Committee formulated a request to the Board of Selectman for the release of previously approved funds to continue work on plans for Diamond and Clarke, begin design work for purchase of 6 modulars, and the reallocation of funds to study redesigning central office space for LCP use.

 


School Committee Meeting – September 8, 2015

Meeting Notes – September 8

School committee meeting 9/8/15 Agenda and meeting packets (including enrollment information) at http://lps.lexingtonma.org/cms/lib2/MA01001631/Centricity/Domain/231/08Sep15SCAgendaPacket.pdf

Superintendent/School Comm Member Announcements:

  • Dr. C to meet with DA to talk about what Middlesex partnership for youth can offer
    Lextended day at Bridge to start in October, 60 slots.
  • Top 3 issues from parent survey – overcrowding, stress, parents.
    Homework policy will be brought forward at next admin council meeting. Next meeting 10/7.
  • National Park Service has a program for all fourth graders – download form off National Park Service website – go into national parks for free. DC art is also participating.
  • Dr. C to look into mitigation of excessive heat (and cold in the winter) in the high school and follow up with Pat Goddard.
  • Everyone in town should have received fall recreation bulletin and lex community ed bulletin – sign up
  • 9/24/2015 is the first safe routes to school room meeting 237 9:30am
  • Please bring in emergency forms. Medication, allergy, contact information needs to be at every front office / nursing office.
  • The parent academy was well-received last year and will occur again this year at Clarke, topics to include stress, cognitive development, sexual abuse.
  • The chair of the permanent building committee, Dinisco, Pat Goddard and the Capital committee reviewed applications from 9 firms who have indicated interest in diamond, Clarke, fiske etc. construction – selected 6 to be interviewed at end of September.
  • Interviews are underway for a new SC secretary. Minutes from meetings since April are not on the website but available as hard copy if you contact SC – will be on web soon.
  • Large community meeting for Lexington Youth Coalition on 10/7 6:30-9:30.

Funding of outdoor classroom construction at Bridge:

  • The Bridge school seeks to conduct three fundraisers for their proposed outdoor classroom and are asking for SC approval. Plan would be for stadium style seating, handicap accessible, for a single class or whole grade, possibly for community use – approx. cost 20-30K. Fundraising would include a fun run, auction, and spring fling. Passed unanimously.

2015-2016 enrollment numbers:

  • Projected vs. actual difference of 6 fewer students, versus Dr. Ash forecast in 2014. Overall increase of 2%. School by school projections – EWG working on more reliable school based projection to have numbers for 10/1.

Budget:

  • Timetable for budget approved, budget guidelines approved. PTA presidents happy to have per pupil expenditure included.

Proposal to move Hastings ILP to Diamond:

  • Currently students in the Hastings ILP go to Clarke middle school, the director of the special education department wants to build capacity at Diamond for Hastings ILP to go to Diamond instead.
  • Clarke does a great job of transitioning students – but this has been an ongoing issue, not moving with building peers. Social connections are part of the hallmark of the autism disability – disappointing to ES that the social connections from Hastings are lost.
  • Would like to request additional capacity at Diamond (possibly two more classrooms, $2M, discussed with Dinisco) for this program. Two classrooms going into courtyard.
  • SC received email from Lex SEPAC/SEPTA – shared with committee – express support for proposal outlined by ES to change feeder patterns for ILP.
  • Concern about how the transition would happen – recommendation to move one grade at a time, only rising sixth graders.
  • Plan – additional 3385 SF, $2,054,000 cost. Two classrooms between new construction and wing built in 2007. Two floors. Efficient, centrally located, both near stair and elevator.
  • No financial savings at Clarke, but would gain one more classroom / better educational space.
  • Additional discussion on long term view for the ILP program, use of rooms, sharing of resources between intensive ILP and ILP.
  • Motion to consider moving ILP from Clarke to Diamond and provide space needed, in context of looking at both middle schools without incurring cost of $2M. Passed 3-2

Fiske brick and mortar construction:

  • Discussion as to whether to propose at summit meeting on 9/16/2015 to move forward with design of a 26-classroom addition vs. 24 or 27. Vote to propose 26-classroom addition as ideal cost/benefit.

Other projects:

  • Vote to propose moving forward with design plans for cafeteria relocation at Diamond rather than expansion of existing space.
  • Vote to fund a study of mechanical systems (steam, hot water) at Diamond to have information before moving forward with design of addition.
  • Vote to request construction funds for replacing temporary partitions at Clarke with permanent walls to increase acoustical privacy and significantly improve the educational experience.
  • Vote to study renovation and upgrades to science rooms to support current educational paradigms at Clarke and Diamond – both are original furniture and designs.
  • Vote to propose approval of construction funds for renovation of current LCP rooms at Harrington to be appropriate for additional elementary classrooms, assuming LCP moves. Plan is to have ready for 2016-2017 school year.
  • Vote to approve funds to complete study of costs and opportunities for additional classrooms at Harrington.

The superintendent presented her draft goals for the 2015-2016 school year. She will meet with SC members, then finalize goals at the next meeting.


School Committee Meeting – Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Report on School Committee Meeting
Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Full agenda and materials available at: http://lps.lexingtonma.org/cms/lib2/MA01001631/Centricity/Domain/231/28Apr15SCAgendaPacket.pdf

Several important items were discussed at the School Committee meeting on April 28, 2015.

  • Permanent building committee looking for members: The school committee has the opportunity to appoint members to this committee to focus specifically on the large school building projects. A letter is available on the Lexington Public Schools website (http://lps.lexingtonma.org/cms/lib2/MA01001631/Centricity/Domain/4/PBC%20Invitation%20to%20Apply.pdf). Please consider applying if you are interested in contributing to this important (and time-consuming) process!
  • Update on building planning, including Hastings:
    • The process has begun in earnest to implement the planning process approved at special town meeting. The same architect and project manager used for the Estabrook project have been hired. The architect has already met with various stakeholders at each school and presented their initial thoughts to Dr. Ash and the central office staff. The architect is starting to consider different options and determine what is feasible. One initial finding is that it would be feasible to build a Hastings School that includes a preschool on the existing Hastings land, but it is possible this would mean losing the baseball field. Dr. Ash emphasized that all of these explorations are in the early stages.
    • A series of three meetings with the public will be held to continue the exploration process. These meetings will be part of the process leading to a more substantial report at the June 16 School Committee meeting.
  •  May 4, 7pm @ Clarke MS: To focus on the middle schools
  • May 5, 7pm @ Fiske: To focus on Fiske, Bowman, and Bridge
  • May 12, 7pm @ Hastings: To focus on Hastings
  • Hill & Co., the project manager, will manage a website about the project. This will be linked by next week to the Lexington Public Schools site and is expected to be updated every two weeks.
  • Roundtable about Lexington Youth: Roundtable about Lexington youth to be held on June 2. This will be an opportunity for multiple town committees to join together to discuss goals regarding young people that might take multiple perspectives. This roundtable might lead to the creation of a Lexington Youth Commission.
  • Discussion of 2016-2017 school calendar: The committee voted to start school before Labor Day in 2016. (This is also the plan for next school year, 2015-2016. The calendar for the upcoming school year was previously approved and is available at: http://lps.lexingtonma.org/cms/lib2/MA01001631/Centricity/Domain/4/1516Calendar27may14.pdf)
  • Technical report on redistricting: The School Committee was presented with a technical report about redistricting approaches. This was not intended to be used for any immediate action but was to start gathering information. Using GIS software and conversations with other local districts, the report focuses on three approaches to redistricting, including their pros and cons. The committee and superintendent emphasize that this is merely to inform discussions. The report is available at: http://lps.lexingtonma.org/cms/lib2/MA01001631/Centricity/Domain/231/28Apr15SCAgendaPacket.pdf
  • Decision made to address Fiske overcrowding in 2015-16 school year: The committee unanimously approved converting an art classroom into a general education classroom for next year. This was chosen over the option of assigning incoming kindergarten students without an older sibling at Fiske to Estabrook. The Fiske PTO, superintendent, and principal all supported this option.

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)