The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 20, 2002


New study proposes expanding current Carlisle School campus

A new design for the expansion of the Carlisle Public School proposes a new two-story, L-shaped building for preschool to grade 2 on the present site of the Carlisle Castle playground, near the corner of Church and School Streets. At the December 9 meeting of the Carlisle School Building Committee, SMMA Architects of Cambridge also recommended demolishing the present one-story Spalding Building to expand the outdoor play plaza, now overflowing with children at recess and lunch. The Spalding Building currently houses the kindergarten and first-grade classes, special education classrooms for the primary grades, the school business office and a conference room.

Built in the mid-1950s, Spalding has a circular wing on one end with much wasted space in the center of the circle. The brick and wood structure was not built for the long-term, says buildings and grounds supervisor David Flannery, who agrees that demolishing the building and building a new structure is the best solution to creating more classroom space. "It would cost more money to renovate the building than to build a new one."

Two school building studies

In June 2001 an initial expansion feasibility study by HKT Architects explored building a second school to house grades preschool to two on the Banta-Davis Land off Bedford Road. The proposal received a cool reception at the 2001 Fall Town Meeting, which approved $20,000 for a second study of possible building sites, including expanding the existing campus. School building committee chair Paul Morrison said the committee is trying to address what it perceives as the "strong attachment" of many to keeping a small-town atmosphere in Carlisle by having just one school campus. Others believe operating costs will be lower with one campus, said Morrison.

To allow the comparison between the two proposals, architects are expected to provide estimates for both building and operating costs for the two locations, and pros and cons for each. Based on the results of the architects' study, the building committee will recommend building on one of the locations in a report to the town when the study is complete, says Morrison.
Spalding School building, viewed from the plaza. (Photo by Midge Eliassen)

The committee also received an additional $20,000 grant from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, the state's development agency for renewable energy, for a design of energy-efficient school buildings.

Expanding common areas

Based on input from the building committee, architects are proposing expanding the core facilities of the current school which see the most use by the growing student population. Whether or not a new school building is built, the present core facilities still need to be expanded, they said.

In preliminary plans the cafeteria and play plaza would be expanded, and the music and art rooms would be moved to larger spaces. A second gym, located next to the present gym, was also discussed. A new library and media center with expanded shelf space and work areas for students was recommended by the architects as part of the proposed major renovation and expansion.

Students now go to the cafeteria in short shifts by grade. Having a larger cafeteria would allow students more time to eat their lunches without being rushed, said Morrison. To create more space in the cafeteria for now, the school has added tables with attached benches and picnic tables outside for students to use in warmer weather, said Flannery.

The plans also allow for the possibility of adding onto the existing Robbins building to create more classroom space for the upper grades. Morrison said any construction would be phased to build classrooms only as needed.

Early childhood center

The early childhood center, as the proposed new building is called in plans, would accommodate the anticipated need for two preschool classrooms and five classroom sections each for kindergarten, grade 1, and grade 2. This school year there are one preschool class, four kindergartens, four first-grade classes, and five second-grade classrooms at the school.

Designs for the building indicate it would function somewhat independently from the rest of the school with a separate outside play area, a smaller library, and a dining room, with meals prepared in the main cafeteria and transported and served in the new building.

The current Castle playground on the site was built in 1988 and, while loved by many children and families, it is nearing the end of its useful life of about 20 years, said Flannery. Built from durable Southern pine, it is still structurally sound and is maintained with an annual coat of sealer. However, playground safety standards have changed since it was built and the structure, although permitted because it already exists, could not be built today. To meet the new standards the school removed some swings to allow a six-foot clearance around them and added a deep layer of wood chips around the structures. Kindergarteners are no longer allowed to play on the Castle due to the new safety standards.

900-student campus maximum no longer applies

Previously, the school administration was told by the state School Building Assistance Bureau (SBAB) that the Carlisle School campus would reach its maximum capacity at 900 students. This number was believed to be the point where a new school would be required. Currently there are 836 students at the school.

However, in discussions with members of the SBAB in their visit to Carlisle this spring, Morrison said the state has had "a change of attitude" and now says the school can in fact expand on the present campus. Amid fiscal cutbacks in the state budget, the SBAB, which provides significant reimbursement funds to school districts for building projects, now favors renovation projects, he said.

Ten-year projections for school enrollments anticipate 1,200 students at the Carlisle School,according to superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson: 825 in preschool to grade 5 and 375 in grades 6-8. 125 students are projected for each grade level K-8, with fewer students in the preschool classes.

The committee is in touch with the recreation commission, historical commission, board of health and other groups as the school building study continues.

More details on January 13

The committee also welcomes the input of the town, Morrison said. The next meeting with SMMA architects will provide a more detailed version of the preliminary site plans and will be held on Monday, January 13 at 7:30pm in the Spalding building conference room.

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito