The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 2, 2001


School building committee seeks funds for futher site study

The school building study committee plans to request funds of $15,000-$20,000 at the Special Town Meeting on November 27 to further evaluate a site for construction of a new school to help alleviate overcrowding at the Carlisle School.

At its October 23rd meeting the building committee discussed ways to respond to lingering questions from residents and town officials about the best location for a new school. The group is recommending the Banta-Davis Land off Bedford Road as the best available location for a new school for students in grades pre-K to grade two.

HKT rejected campus expansion

A feasibility study on school expansion, completed in June by HKT Architects of Somerville, recommended the Banta-Davis Land over two other proposed sites: the sloping hillside next to the school on Church Street which contains the tennis courts and toddler playground and the Spalding playing fields at the bottom of the hill.

The hillside was rejected by the architects in their report as unsuitable for several reasons. The soil at the site is glacial till with ground water just below the surface, would require costly site development including extra reinforcing of foundations and footings and extensive waterproofing, according to the study. The steep slope was also a concern. "There is not enough buildable land on this site to provide sufficient paved parking and access," the report says. "Areas for parking, access and play will need to be terraced and buttressed by retaining walls."

The Spalding playing field, the feasibility study notes, was originally a marsh area that was filled and has a 100-foot wetlands buffer zone, restricting the area for construction. "Extensive excavation and the replacement of sub-soils will be required for construction," the study states, "There is not enough buildable land on the site for sufficient paved parking: community and visitor parking would need to be remote."

The building committee also looked into expanding the existing campus, adding a second floor to the Wilkins building, and putting a new multi-story building on the site of the present Spaulding building. This option, while adding more classroom space, does not solve the need for expanded common areas to accommodate more students, such as a larger cafeteria, outdoor play space, gym, and additional parking, which would need to be squeezed into an already crowded physical location.

State bureau may decide location

According to school business manager Eileen Riley, the state's School Building Assistance Bureau (SBAB), which currently reimburses school districts for up to 50 percent of new school construction costs, has advised Carlisle in the past that they would not fund additional work at the existing campus. The SBAB, which sets square footage per child space requirements for school buildings, has said the current K-8 school location will be "maxed out" at 900 students, due to overcrowding and the lack of physical space to add expanded common areas at the site. Currently 857 students are enrolled this 2001-2002 school year.

Riley said the school needs to update its school building needs, one step in the process to obtain reimbursement from the SBAB. Carlisle's building needs were last addressed in August 2000 and since that time the state has added new classroom space requirements for special needs, computers and technology.

Riley will schedule the building needs conference with the SBAB in Carlisle this fall to get an updated evaluation of the building sites. She said the SBAB typically does not approve of multi-level sites because of safety concerns for young children, or sites where development costs would be excessive. The SBAB will hopefully provide a "definitive answer" to the question of which site is suitable for a new school, says Riley, since without the assurance of SBAB reimbursement for the building project, the town is not likely to proceed.

Answering the public's questions

Beyond the question of where to site a new school, the building committee is aware, after discussions with town officials and residents, that some in the community still question whether there is a need for a new school, or if current increases in student enrollments will slow down in the years ahead. Also residents are concerned about keeping costs down if another school is built, and how to avoid duplication of administrative services at two schools. School committee member Paul Morrison said the building group will work to answer some of these questions at the fall Town Meeting.

School committee chair Suzanne Whitney Smith outlined plans to include residents in discussions about a new school in the year ahead, including giving a presentation to the Carlisle School Association, dialogues with parents and residents at the school, and writing articles about the proposed new school for the Mosquito. Committee member Beth Hambleton said neighborhood coffees were also an effective way to reach residents. "People don't want to accept that the town is growing," said Hambleton, co-author with John Ballantine and Nancy Pierce of "Growing Pains," a study of town growth completed in 1998.

Once the new site study is completed, the building committee plans to go forward with a request for design funds for a new school, which will require a majority vote at the Spring Town Meeting.

2001 The Carlisle Mosquito