The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 7, 2006


Carlisle School Master Plan nears completion

Architects are close to completing the school's Master Plan after working closely with the School Building Committee since September to come up with the best plan to improve the school facility.

HMFH Architects of Cambridge expect to complete cost estimates for two possible building plans by late April as they wrap up the final components of the plan. The committee plans to give a brief summary of the Master Plan at Town Meeting on May 1.

After reviewing several sets of building plans and giving the community a chance to see and respond to them at meetings in January, the SBC has settled on two different options. One plan shows a new multi-story building next to and attached to the Corey Building. The other plan shows a new building connecting the Robbins Building to the Wilkins and Corey Buildings, with renovations to some of the older buildings.

Any building project would be done in phases. Both plans specify that the 50 year-old Spalding Building be demolished as it is considered to be in the worst condition of the buildings on the campus.

Highland Building maintenance

The School Committee voted this winter that the century-old Highland School Building should not be part of the Master Plan. The school is not calling for its demolition, and it has not turned the building over to the town. The building has not been used for school classrooms for almost twenty years. Emerson Umbrella, a non-profit artists' group, has used the building since 1994. The group's three-year lease will expire in September 2007.

The school has said it does not plan to spend school funds to maintain the Highland Building. Many artists and members of the Historical Commission have voiced their concerns over the building, but no one knows how ongoing maintenance expenses will be covered. Emerson Umbrella has indicated it would consider making major renovations to the building only with a ten-year lease, but the non-profit may need a major fundraising effort to accomplish the needed repairs.

No modulars for now

With enrollment projections level or dropping over the next few years, SBC Chair Christy Barbee says the school has decided not to seek funds for modular classrooms at this time. "We've decided to put any project funds towards getting the kind of facility we need going forward."

Summarizing HMFH's role in the planning process, architect Lori Cowles said the goal of the school master plan is to provide a scope of options. Compared with previous building studies, the plans are more comprehensive and give the school a longer view, including options for short-, mid-, and long-term building phases for up to ten years from now to 2016.

Voters approved $50,000 for the study at the 2005 Town Meeting to address some of the school's aging buildings, and to look at ways to improve facilities the school considers deficient, including elementary art, music, foreign languages, science labs, and special education spaces.

The Building Committee has not made a decision yet, but it is likely the school will seek design funds for the first phase of the building plan at a Town Meeting this fall.

State rates building conditions

The Massachusetts School Building Authority recently visited all school systems in the state to inspect each school building and give it a condition rating. The ratings are intended to help the state as it cautiously starts to review new school building projects for reimbursement beginning this summer. The state will distribute up to $500 million a year in new grants, based on a priority system that includes poor condition of buildings, and school overcrowding.

Buildings are rated one to four, with one indicating a building is in good condition and four indicating it may be a candidate for replacement. The Spalding and Wilkins Buildings were rated three, indicating they are "approaching poor condition."

The school requested the MSBA downgrade the Spalding Building to a 4 rating in a letter to the agency: "It is our opinion that this building's ranking was skewed by having newer style windowsThe HVAC unit is past its useful life. The roof needs to be replaced. The walls and ceilings are badly damaged and stained due to the failing roof. The electrical system is at capacity and the building has a history of mold-related problems. A recent termite infestation is a new concern."

* (Used for Middle School art only)

2006 The Carlisle Mosquito