The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 23, 2008

RSC mulls high school building project

At the May 13 Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee (RSC) meeting Superintendent Brenda Finn discussed a letter she has received from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) requesting the status and timeline for implementation of recommendations made in its 2005 accreditation review of the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School (CCHS) that have not yet been addressed. Many of the remaining recommendations can only be addressed with a new or a significantly renovated facility. CCHS Principal Badalament said he would have to call the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), the state organization that offers partial reimbursement to qualifying school construction and renovation projects. The district has been waiting for more information from the MSBA since the high school building project was put on a “Hold” list late last year. Retired Principal Art Dulong and current Principal Badalament have been required to write progress reports every few months to the NEASC.

History of renovation plans

Prior to 2005, two studies had been done to address high school facility issues. The first study recommended adding eight to ten classrooms only, not touching the rest of the building. The second study recommended adding a new science wing where the I-building is.

In 2005, an in-depth feasibility study was conducted to understand what needed to be done to solve facility problems at the high school. It was concluded that $40 to $45 million would be needed to address the infrastructure of the building, which included upgrading electrical, heating and other systems and bringing the building up to current safety, accessibility and building codes. An $80 million renovation would address the infrastructure and provide additional space for educational programs at the high school. It was estimated that building a new school costing $90 million (in 2005 dollars) would take less time to construct than a renovation/addition project because of students using the building during the construction. For these reasons as well as the NEASC request to provide more space for educational programs, the RSC recommended the construction of a new school building, but is waiting for project approval for partial reimbursement from MSBA.

RSC tours Chelmsford High School

Members of the RSC, CCHS administration and State Representative Cory Atkins recently toured the new renovation at Chelmsford High School with Chelmsford school officials. Although Chelmsford had originally wanted a much bigger renovation, they did an $18 million project which added a performing arts center and enlarged seven lab classrooms. RSC member Jerry Wedge said, “The performing arts center is a basic box. It has good sight lines. … It’s a sensible use of public funds.” He commented, “The project just added spaces they didn’t have. The finishes were very plain and simple. No windows were replaced. The metal siding is old and worn… This project is nothing as comprehensive as our plan… It doesn’t seem like a project Concord would want.”

RSC member Peter Fischelis said, “The state is really pushing these smaller projects. For those communities who want to put up a new facility, it will be very challenging. It is a little bit disconcerting. But that’s the reality. It’s going to be tough for us.”

Finn said Chelmsford expects to go back to MSBA in five years to address things this renovation did not fix. This is contradictory to the message it was felt the MSBA is giving, which is that it does not expect schools to get back in line for funding for another 20 years. RSC member Jan McGinn said, “If you can’t get money for another 20 years, don’t take the first payment.”

Outgoing RSC chair Michael Fitzgerald said, “It is frustrating because this discussion has been going on for nearly ten years.” ∆

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