The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 10, 2006


Carlisle School Building Committee weighs finances, enrollments New Carlisle building still several years away

The school continues to work with town officials on a school building project the town can afford. After the school's Master Plan was completed last spring, the Carlisle School Building Committee began discussions with the new Long-term Financial Planning subcommittee that includes FinCom members and other town officials. The planning committee was formed this summer to assist the town in planning its school building projects.

Long-term Planning Chair Tim Hult says the group expects to complete a spreadsheet analysis in January to project capital expenditures for the next several years, including costs associated with borrowing for the projects. The financial analysis that results will give town officials a financial context to evaluate decisions on the school projects, he said, with the analysis updated each year.

The Carlisle School building project is expected to cost $20 to $30 million, while the high school is planning to replace the entire building complex at a cost estimated last year at around $90 million. The Regional School Committee decided on a complete replacement rather than spend nearly the same amount to make extensive renovations to the high school's aging facilities.

Current plans for the Carlisle School are to remove the Spalding Building and build a new elementary school addition connected to the Corey and Wilkins Buildings. With recent concerns over school safety, a connected building is a priority to make the school easier to secure and monitor, says School Building Chair Christy Barbee.

Developments expected

to bring school growth

The school is planning for the impact of the known home building projects on the town's horizon. "We have to be ready for what comes our way," says Barbee of the two housing projects now in the works including the 26-unit town affordable-housing project on South Street, and the private Coventry Woods development proposed on Concord Street. A large single-home development off Westford Street is also in the planning stages.

The school is also looking closely at projections from the 2005 New England School Development Council (NESDC) enrollment study, part of the master plan. One forecast projected that, even with affordable housing and other growth, Carlisle will have 781 students in five years, down 4%, due to an expected short-term drop in school-age children. Within ten years, however, the study projected the school to have 860 students, a 5.7% increase. In planning for the new building the school is using 860 students in its ten-year projections.

The Building Committee is making a great effort not to over-build, while trying to ensure a new building is not too small for the school's future needs, says Barbee. Currently the school has the exact number of classrooms it needs for the nine grades, kindergarten to grade eight, and one preschool classroom.

Over the last decade, however, art, music, and world language classes were forced to move out of classroom spaces to accommodate the need for more classrooms. Elementary art is in a room designed to be the Corey stage storage area, while elementary music classes are held in a small-sized music practice room. Two small middle school science labs in the Wilkins Building are considered outdated for the current Science and Technology curriculum.

The school buildings were also designed before mandated changes in special education laws. They do not have the small rooms needed for special education, which often takes place one-on-one with a teacher or in small groups. The school is considering adding four small, soundproof rooms for special education in the new building, to be used as classrooms during the day and as music practice rooms at night. The rooms could also be used for office space and for storing program supplies. A total of 22 classrooms are planned for the new building.

Though previously discussed, the majority of the Building Committee is opposed to adding modular classrooms to gain program space. Quotes for modular units show costs between $800,000 to $1 million, including site preparation work, a price considered too high for classrooms that are not permanent.

State reimbursement

The SBC is completing a Statement of Interest for the building project for the Massachusetts School Building Authority. The statement, a required first step in the new MSBA application process, includes photos documenting the condition of the Spalding Building. The 50-year-old building, which holds kindergarten and first-grade classrooms, is considered in the worst condition of all buildings due to poor construction. Spalding was rated by the state as in poor condition and "may be a candidate for replacement" according to guidelines.

The state will resume reimbursements to school districts in the summer of 2007 after undergoing extensive reform to tighten financial requirements. The MSBA plans to distribute $500 million annually in new grants to school districts based on a priority system that includes poor condition of buildings and school overcrowding, among other factors. (See "MSBA explains new process for funding school building projects," on page 1)

In a best-case scenario it could be 2010 before a new school building is completed, if the school waits in line for a guarantee of state reimbursement, says Barbee. If Carlisle applies for state funding when MSBA reimbursements begin next summer, and if the project is approved, the school would likely ask for funds in the spring of 2008. Architects are expected to take a year to complete designs after which construction will take a year to a year and a half, putting project completion sometime in 2010, barring any unforeseen delays. The state now requires school districts to pre-qualify contractors and subcontractors, a requirement expected to add more time to the building process.

Barbee acknowledges the irony that the Carlisle School and Concord-Carlisle High School are both competing for the same pot of state money. "I hate that we're both going for funding at the same time," she said, "The reality is both schools really need to be addressed."

2006 The Carlisle Mosquito