Friday, September 17, 1999
Is a regional middle school in Carlisle's future?
Faced with worn and outdated elementary school buildings in Concord and the need for a new middle school, new Concord School Superintendent Ed Mavragis dropped what he called a "little bombshell" at a recent regional school committee meeting when he suggested the possibility of Concord and Carlisle sharing a middle school. A possible reorganization to share all of grades 6-12 with Carlisle is "food for thought," said Mavragis because both towns are in the midst of an enrollment push at the middle school level.
Concord currently has 650 middle school students in two separate buildings, the Sanborn and the Peabody Buildings on Old Marlboro Road near the Sudbury line. While students at the middle school buildings take classes separately during the day, they participate together in sports and other extracurricular activities. The proposed master plan for the Concord Schools proposes one combined middle school. The master plan calls for a large-scale school reconstruction and renovation project for the elementary and middle schools and is expected to cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in the years ahead if approved by Concord voters.
Mavragis pointed out the most pressing need is for reconstruction of Concord's elementary school buildings which he said are in "very difficult straits." After the defeat of last spring's operating budget override for the Concord K-8 schools, he suggested a strategy of separating the elementary schools' building project from the middle schools' project. "What can the community accept without further delay?" he asked, indicating that a separate proposal for the elementary level might have a better chance of obtaining taxpayer approval than the entire Master Plan building project.
School committee reaction
School committee members were predictably surprised by the idea of a new regional middle school, at the August 31 meeting. Concord RSC chair Lauren Walters called it an "intriguing but radical idea" and expressed concern that planning a new regional school would push back the date for making needed improvements to the buildings. Carlisle RSC member Harry Crowther said that Concord would need to produce a detailed master plan for the middle school in order for Carlisle to be interested in discussing the idea.
Member Cindy Nock said after the meeting that it's a good idea to keep discussions open at this stage since Carlisle is still growing and the K-8 school is approaching capacity. The latest numbers show a total enrollment of 775 students of which 252 are in the middle school. There is a 900-student maximum capacity set by state law.
Nock said she believes in the value of having a small K-8 system and a survey of Carlisle parents seven years ago indicated that most parents were also pleased with the Carlisle system. At that time officials concluded that it was not cost-effective to combine additional grades with Concord because the state no longer provides a financial incentive for regionalization. Nock said a new regional middle school, potentially to be built in Carlisle, would have a lot of implications for the system since it would create a smaller K-5 system with a different administrative structure.
One alternative to sending middle school students to a separate school is to build another K-8 school in town. This is an option which Nock prefers because it preserves the current small K-8 structure. She said another alternative is build a separate school for students in grades K-2. The building costs for such a school would be less because science classrooms and other middle school facilities would not be necessary.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito