The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 28, 2001


Study proposes second school campus on Banta-Davis School committee cites 'critical and immediate need'

Chairman of the board of selectman John Ballantine had everyone's attention on Monday evening as he opened a discussion of the proposed Carlisle School expansion, pointing out that this will be Carlisle's largest capital project over the next 10 years with a projected price tag of around 15 million dollars. According to state and local estimates the town's population is projected to increase from 5,000 to 7,500 by the year 2030, with the school population growing to 1,200. Currently 850 students are enrolled and, although the school lists its total capacity as 900, superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson was quick to point out that many of the core facilities the cafeteria, gymnasium, parking, and play areas are already operating at maximum level.

Spalding Field, slope unsuitable

HKT Architects, the consultants commissioned by the school building committee to undertake a feasiblity study to determine the best possible site for school expansion, presented their findings. HKT looked at three possible sites: the sloped area leading down to Spalding Field, Spalding Field, and the Banta-Davis Land. After examining the soil and grading of the sloped area, they determined this site to be unsuitable for building, primarily due to the steepness of the terrain, the glacial till which would create severe drainage problems, and the costs involved in grading the area. In looking at Spalding Field, HKT determined that it is a marshland and major excavation would have to take place to remove unsuitable soils to make it appropriate for septic or building use.

Banta-Davis best building site

HKT recommended Banta-Davis as the site most suitable for school expansion, citing its close proximity to the existing campus and its ample space for a waste treatment facility and parking at the site. HKT recommended that Pre-K-2 be housed at this location (approximately 300 students) in a one-story building complete with its own cafeteria, media center and gymnasium. This recommendation was echoed by the school building committee which unanimously agreed that, while not ideal, there are no good alternatives given the "critical and immediate need for additional space."

Rebuild old school?

A lengthy discussion ensued on locating the school on the two sites. Selectman Vivian Chaput expressed concern that the school would lose some of its "small town feel," while others expressed concern about the costs and impact on the total school community of operating in two separate locations. There was expressed dissatisfaction with the existing school buildings as being old and outdated and suggested that the town consider reconstructing the existing buildings and phase in the building of a new school on the existing space. Former school committee chair Paul Morrison disagreed, suggesting that both students and faculty would find it extremely difficult to operate effectively on a construction site, especially over a sustained period of time. HKT suggested that it would be difficult to expand the core facilities at the existing site. Fox-Melanson also pointed out that a great deal of time and energy and thought had gone into this plan and she urged the town to move quickly on the decisions necessary to begin the process of school expansion.

Time for action, not plans

Some participants expressed a need for a 30-year master plan which would review the existing campus and the current and future demographics of the town. Selectman and former school committee member Timothy Hult disagreed, "We have to move forward with concrete work. We cannot step back and work on a Master Plan. We don't have the time". As HKT concluded their remarks, they pointed out that even if the necessary decisions were made immediately, the school expansion would not be complete before January 2005.

Ballantine pointed out that the most significant impediment to school expansion is the need to resolve the septic non-compliance. For any school expansion to take place, the school will need to build a wastewater treatment plant which would meet the needs of a school of 1,200 students. (See "septic saga' beginning on page ___.) Any school expansion plans, Ballantine stated, would need to run concurrent with the construction a new waste treatment facility.

The Selectmen designated November 27 for a Special Town Meeting at which the school building committee will seek funding for design of both the wastewater facility and the new school. At the Spring Town Meeting in May 2002 the committee plans to seek funding for construction of a new elementary school. If the funding is approved, work would begin in 2003 with a move in date of January 2005.

2001 The Carlisle Mosquito