The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, August 31, 2007


School building agency tours Carlisle School

The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) recently visited Carlisle for the first time since the school filed a Statement of Interest for a new building project with the agency earlier this year. School Building Committee Chair Christy Barbee said one MSBA staff member and two architectural and engineering consultants toured the buildings on campus on August 14, focusing on the Spalding Building, which the school hopes to replace with a new elementary building.

The tour lasted over two hours, but though the agency took note of mold on the outdoor walls of Spalding and industrial humidifiers that run all summer to combat mold growth indoors, the agency did not tip its hand to indicate where the project stands, said Barbee.

The visit is a preliminary step as the state processes more than 400 applications for building projects it received through the July 31 deadline. The school expects the MSBA may visit again this fall for a thorough facilities and maintenance assessment when the state will look in detail at Spalding's condition and examine building maintenance records and expenses. The state agency chose Concord as one of the school districts in its pilot program to assess facilities and maintenance. The Willard and Thoreau Elementary Schools have already received the detailed visit.

The state is working through the large number of applications to determine which school buildings have the most urgent need for state aid. Funding resumes late this year after school building fiscal reform and a four-year moratorium on new projects.

Timing considerations

Though the school will not hear if the project is approved for state reimbursement until sometime this winter, Barbee said if the school does not move forward to request design funds at a Town Meeting this fall, the cost of the project will only continue to rise. The building committee maintains that construction costs, which have risen steeply in the last few years, increase the project cost each year. Barbee has said if the school waits for approval with the new state procedures it would be 2010, at the very earliest, before the elementary building project is complete.

Retroactive funding unlikely

Carlisle should not expect reimbursement for any design work undertaken prior to MSBA approval, Ralph Wallace of the MSBA recently told School Business Manager Heidi Zimmerman.

Spalding and CCHS rated poor

The school would like to replace Spalding with a new building, attached to the Wilkins or Corey Buildings. The 50 year-old Spalding received a "4" rating from the state in a survey of school buildings last year, indicating it may be a "candidate for replacement."

The MSBA recently confirmed that Spalding is rated in the worst condition in a letter to School Business Manager Heidi Zimmerman. However, on the MSBA web site the Carlisle School is rated a "2", indicating the buildings are in generally good condition. The state says the "2" rating is a composite of all the Carlisle school buildings, and was determined by combining the ratings for each building. Along with the Spalding Building, Concord-Carlisle High School is rated "4" by the MSBA for the poor condition of all of its campus buildings.

The Spalding Building contains kindergarten and first grade classes, the Concord Area Special Education Collaborative (CASE) classroom, and the Superintendent's and Business Manager's offices.

Expansion options

At public building forums this spring, the building committee gave three options for the project with estimated costs. Option 1, at $13 million, replaces the classrooms and offices in Spalding. Option 2, at $18 million, includes Option 1 rooms, plus four second grade rooms, one elementary art room, one elementary music room, art and music storage rooms, and a conference room. This option is intended to help alleviate overcrowding in the middle school by moving second grade classrooms, music and art to open up space in the other buildings.

Option 3, the most expensive at $28 million, includes all the rooms in Options 1 and 2, plus a large multi-purpose room that could also be used by the community outside of school hours, a new gymnasium, three world language classrooms, a room configured for technology/engineering classes, another special education office, two Council on Aging offices, a kitchenette and a community center with a separate door outside the school.

Reimbursement rate

The school expects to receive around a 40% reimbursement from the state when the project is finally approved. In the new MSBA system, if a project is not approved for funds, the school district must reapply for funds by filing a new Statement of Interest every year. Over time the agency plans to work through the proposed school projects, prioritizing the most urgent needs first.

CCHS waiting for MSBA aid

At this time Concord-Carlisle High School plans to wait for state approval of its building project, and a reimbursement guarantee, before requesting funds from Concord and Carlisle voters. Last year the high school feasibility study group recommended building a new high school at a cost estimated then at around $90 million. The group recommended a complete building replacement rather than spend nearly the same amount of money to make extensive renovations on the high school's deteriorating buildings

The building committee, which reports to the Board of Selectmen, will discuss the project with the board at their next meeting on September 11.

2007 The Carlisle Mosquito