The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 7, 2003


Option 2: new school on Banta-Davis Land

Whether to expand the Carlisle Public School on the present school campus or on the town-owned Banta-Davis Land on Bedford Road is the question before the Carlisle School Building Committee. SMMA Architects of Cambridge presented plans for a new school building on the Banta-Davis Land at the committee's meeting on January 27. Preliminary conceptual drawings show a two-story school building, the early education center, for preschool through grade 2 on the site.

The Banta-Davis plan is the second part of the school expansion study. It is intended to allow a comparison of the costs of building at the present campus or at Banta-Davis. (See story and architect's plan for expansion on the current campus Option 1 in the January 24 issue of the Mosquito.)

At the meeting, as the outside temperature stood at five degrees, the school lost power and the Spalding conference room went dark. Superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson and business manager Steve Moore went to their offices to retrieve emergency flashlights so the meeting could proceed. In the cold, by flashlight, the committee looked over the architectural drawings.

Early education center

Architect Peter Lukacic asked the committee if they had considered moving the middle school, grades 6-8, to the Banta-Davis Land where the older students would have direct access to many of the town playing fields. Fox-Melanson said she didn't support the idea of a large middle school removed from the rest of the school community at a critical time in the students' lives. She said the reason for having a separate facility for the youngest students is because it is developmentally appropriate to group children in the ages of preschool to grade 2 together.

Since any school built on the Banta-Davis Land would be apart from the main campus, it would need its own cafeteria and gymnasium. Building committee chair Paul Morrison said a "cafetorium" is planned, which is a combined cafeteria and gym that could be used at alternate times of the day for the early grades. Regarding the preliminary construction costs shown by SMMA at the meeting, Morrison said, "At this point, there are not any significant construction cost differences between building at the present campus or at Banta-Davis."

Additional costs and staff

However, the architects noted there would be additional costs at Banta-Davis for site preparation and road construction, paving, snow plowing and other maintenance. Additional staff that would likely be needed include an assistant principal and a nurse at the Banta-Davis site, said the superintendent. With 1,200 students projected for the Carlisle School over the next ten years, she said, "Regardless of whether we add onto this campus or build a school at Banta-Davis, we will need additional staff."

Currently there are 844 students enrolled at the school. With the economic downturn in high technology in the area, enrollment at the school is not increasing as rapidly as it has in recent years. Enrollments are expected to rise once again, however, whenever the economy turns around. Carlisle's rural appearance, proximity to major routes, and high MCAS scores attract many homebuyers.

To complete the cost comparison, the architects will provide additional estimates for maintenance and operating costs. The administration will provide estimates for the projected additional personnel.

More classrooms, play space needed

Previous plans called for five classroom sections for each grade. With each grade projected to have125 students, class size would be 25 students, a number that is too high, particularly for the early elementary grades, said Fox-Melanson. She asked architects to allow for six additional classrooms, one per grade for grades K-5, or at least grades K-4, to bring class sizes down to about 21 students.

The superintendent also asked architects to find ways to add more outdoor play space into the plans. After looking at the plans to add onto the present campus, she said, "I'm still concerned about the amount of play space there will be on campus."

After looking at the preliminary figures for construction costs at Banta-Davis, school building committee chair Paul Morrison polled the committee for their opinions on Option 1 versus Option 2.

Fox-Melanson said if she were convinced there is a way to solve all the space problems on the present campus, such as significantly increasing outdoor play space, adding sufficient classroom space, and adding more parking, "Then I would sign on to build here. I love having a K-8 school system. However, if we have to crowd students, we have lost something. "

Member Christy Barbee pointed out that if the decision is to build on the present campus, then the campus would be full. "This is as far as we can go at the present site." Other members noted the town-owned Banta-Davis Land would always be available as a potential school building site in future years, if it is needed.

Earlier study

In June 2001, an earlier school building study done by HKT Architects was the basis for the building committee's previous recommendation of the Banta-Davis Land as the best site for a possible second school. Concerned about costs, the 2001 Fall Town Meeting approved $20,000 for a further detailed study of building sites. The current study by SMMA Architects will allow a direct comparison of the costs and benefits of expanding at the present campus or alternatively building a new school at Banta-Davis.

2003 The Carlisle Mosquito