The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, July 4, 2008

No vacation for Spalding School Building replacement planning

$15 to $30 million project cost estimates

Though students are on summer vacation, the school is busy trying to hire a manager for the proposed building project. This week the town advertised for an Owner’s Project Manager with the ad specifying that the project “may range from $15 to $30 million depending on the solution that is agreed upon by the owner [school and town] and the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) and that is ultimately approved by a vote of the Town and the MSBA.”

School Business Manager Heidi Zimmerman has worked with members of the Building Committee since school ended, fine-tuning the 25-page Request for Owner’s Project Management Services document required by the state. A site visit and informational meeting for applicants is scheduled for next Thursday at the school. The final hiring decision must wait until September, however, after the MSBA meets again and votes on the project manager selection.

Once hired, the project manager will write a proposal to hire an architect for the new building and assist the school in selecting the architect. The state agency plans to manage costs by working with schools during the design stage. The state will partner with the school and town on building designs and the group must reach an agreement on the size and scope of the project.

The plan is to replace the 50-year-old Spalding Building with a new elementary building. Some renovations are also planned for the school’s other buildings. The town expects to receive a project reimbursement of approximately 40% from the MSBA, with reimbursement payments received throughout the course of the project.

Checks and balances

The state, school and town partnership is designed to add checks and balances to the process. At last week’s meeting, Town Treasurer Larry Barton said the town needs to address the school’s future and current needs, while not overbuilding. With the new state process, the project should address school needs for the next 20 years, he said, so the town does not have to take on a new project before then. He questioned why the new building is being designated only for the preschool, kindergarten and grades 1 and 2. At this point, “We should look at the whole school. We can as easily put other grades in the new building.”

At this time exactly what will go into the new space is still preliminary, the group says, though all Spalding classes, including kindergarten and grade 1 classrooms, and the occupational and physical therapy programs are expected to move to the new building. The preschool and second-grade classrooms are also expected to relocate there and elementary music and art classrooms may also move there.

Currently the building committee is trying to determine the total square footage of the new building using updated state educational program space guidelines. Architects will later configure what goes into the new building based on what the school specifies as its needs.

Enrollment projections

To get a better handle on the expected decline in enrollment at the school in the next decade, Zimmerman said the school plans to meet with a representative from the New England School Development Council (NESDEC), and former Selectman John Ballantine (town demographics expert) in the next two weeks. The school projects it needs space for 700 students. Currently it has 780 students. (See Mosquito article, “Enrollment Declines Weighed in Carlisle School Plans,” June 6, 2008.)

Space needed for special needs

Superintendent Marie Doyle gave a draft report on the school’s education plan and space needs at the meeting. In a section on changes in education, she notes how federal mandates, such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), require schools to provide support for all students with disabilities. “We have a mandate from the Department of Education to provide appropriate learning spaces for our students with special needs.”

She also noted that Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks developed by the state since 1999 and annual MCAS testing have also impacted the school, setting a high standard for teachers and students. “Standards-based education means we set high goals and provide a rigorous curriculum for all children in an inclusive environment. This translates into a school that must provide support to help children who need additional time and guidance to master the course work,” Doyle writes. “We have kept pace with the demands of the laws and changes in education over the past 15 years in terms of staffing, but our physical plant has not increased to provide the space necessary for this support.” She said the school particularly needs small learning spaces for small-group instruction.

She also said new state frameworks in science and technology require middle school students to study engineering. The school hopes to add an engineering lab in the new building.

Some renovations to other school buildings, including roof replacements, are expected to be included in the project for partial state reimbursement. Member Bill Risso said architects will look at what renovations are most necessary, and energy and operating costs must be carefully considered in the entire project.

The group acknowledged that one of their most important tasks is to determine the cost threshold that would be acceptable for most town residents. A communications subcommittee is forming to educate and communicate with the public about the building project over the coming months. ∆

Additional school-related articles in this week's edition:


© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito