The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 19, 2008

School Building Committee reviews space needs, wants, requirements

In an effort to support current and future educational needs at the Carlisle Public Schools, the School Building Committee (SBC) is working on plans to replace the Spalding Building and upgrade other school facilities, and to obtain partial reimbursement for the building project from the state, through the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA). At its meeting on September 11, SBC members reviewed space needs, project timetables, and school population projections which will drive the size of the building.

School, MSBA move closer on enrollment projections

Carlisle School Superintendent Marie Doyle met on September 9 with Katherine Craven, executive director of the MSBA to discuss projections for Carlisle’s school-age population. After the meeting, Craven agreed to consider a 10-year projection of 600-700 students.

Different modeling calculations have resulted in very different long-term enrollment predictions and one of the tasks of the SBC is to reach agreement with MSBA on a school population size on which to base new building designs. Originally, the MSBA had calculated Carlisle’s school population would dip below 420 in a decade. The New England School Development Council (NESDEC) has forecasted a slightly higher enrollment of 494. On the other hand, former Carlisle Selectman John Ballantine has done extensive work in the population projection of the town and predicts the school enrollment will fall within the 600 - 700 range. Selectman Doug Stevenson praised Ballantine, saying, “He has done a very good job.”

Doyle told the SBC that many superintendents had called the MSBA with their concerns that the state’s enrollment projections were too low. Doyle said, “MSBA has asked us to look at 600 students.” She felt that estimate was too low, stating, “We have been looking at what we need based on 700 students.” She and Craven went back and forth about the number and Craven agreed to a range of 600 to 700 students.

The current enrollment is 728, down 49 students from last year.

MSBA vague on reimbursement

SBC member William Fink said, “The MSBA has not confirmed our reimbursement.” SBC Chair Lee Storrs warned that the MSBA may be pulling away from the 40% reimbursement that had been expected, but he said that the town is at least assured 31% reimbursement. That percentage may increase for good maintenance and other factors.

Daedalus to start as OPM

Sean Fennell, vice president and project manager of Daedalus Projects, Inc. will be the new Owners Project Manager (OPM) for the Carlisle School building project. The MSBA requires towns to hire an OPM to coordinate and oversee design and construction during any large school building project.

Daedalus was chosen by the town (see “Daedalus favored for school OPM,” Mosquito, August 15) and MSBA approved the selection, reported School Business Manager Heidi Zimmerman, although paperwork from MSBA and a signed contract are still in the works. Fennell is expected to attend SBC meetings starting on September 24.

Tentative timeline

Now that an OPM has been hired, the SBC is hoping to bring the project to a Special Town Meeting, perhaps as soon as January, to raise funds for schematic design of the renovation and addition. Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie informed the SBC that it takes three months from the time the committee requests the Board of Selectmen to call for a Special Town Meeting until it can be accommodated.

The usual next step is to go through the Designer Selection Panel, but the SBC is asking MSBA for permission to skip this task. The search process could take two to three months, where the SBC would ask for proposals from architects for the schematic design, review their proposals, check their references, look at their past experience and then hire an architect for this phase. The SBC would like to hire HMFH Architects, because they did the Master Plan for the school in 2005 and there is familiarity between the firm and the school. Storrs said after the meeting, “We thought they had done a good job.” While Storrs is not opposed to going through the Designer Selection Panel, he hopes it will not delay the Special Town Meeting.

Keeping Highland separate

The Selectmen are considering renovation to the Highland Building (see page 1), a century-old wooden building which has not been used by the school program in many years. Selectman Doug Stevenson said, “It will be a separate project. It shouldn’t take away from anything happening with this school project.” He expects the Highland Building to be discussed in May, not at the same time as this school project. Storrs noted that had the school considered reusing Highland for classes, MSBA would not offer reimbursement for renovations to a wooden building.

Space needs and wants

The current building plan proposes replacing Spalding with a larger building. Spalding has 16,380 square feet, while plans call for 24,000 to replace Spalding and provide new space for fine arts, science and technology, student support and the English Language Learners (ELL) program. Factoring in hallways, bathrooms and other non-instructional space brings the total size envisioned for the new facility to about 35,000 square feet.

Replacing the Spalding Building

Spalding currently contains a total of nine full-sized classrooms, an office suite, special education rooms, the teachers’ lunchroom and storage areas. The nine classrooms include: three kindergarten classrooms, four first-grade classrooms and one room shared by ELL and special education programs. A former kindergarten classroom is used as a health classroom this year because there are only three sections of kindergarten. The office suite includes: the superintendent’s office, the business manager’s office, one assistant, one aide, a bathroom and a storage area. The special education spaces house four speech and language therapists, two occupational therapists, one physical therapist and one special educator for grades K-1. These spaces are to be replaced or relocated.

Over the last 50 years since Spalding was built, the recommended space per classroom has changed. For instance, the average kindergarten classroom in Spalding is 1,152 square feet, whereas the MSBA guidelines recommend 1,200 square feet. The guidelines do not affect existing buildings but are intended for new school construction. The average first-grade classroom is 864 square feet, while MSBA guidelines are 925 square feet. Replacments for Spalding’s classrooms would need to be larger to accommodate the new guidelines.

Cluster early grades for collaboration

One of the goals is to locate pre-school through grade 2 in the same area of the building for both educational purposes and safety reasons. This would allow the teachers to stay connected with the students over the primary years. Visitors would enter through a secured entrance allowing for a safer environment for the youngest students.

Upgrade scienceand technology facilities

Earlier, Doyle has stated, “There is a national crisis looming” due to a projected shortage of STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) trained employees. “We need to expose students to the STEM fields.” Improved middle school lab space will be required to comply with the 2006 state science and technology curriculum frameworks.

Science labs in the Grant Building, at 995 square feet, are below MSBA’s standards of 1,200 square feet. The SBC is also considering an engineering lab and a computer lab. The plan also calls for renovating the three middle school science rooms.

More space for music

Additional areas for music were discussed at length. Currently, the band practices on the stage and the chorus practices in the music room at the back of the auditorium which can be sectioned off with a movable wall.

According to Fire Chief David Flannery, “The Corey auditorium and stage as public assembly areas are approved for a maximum occupant capacity of 387 in the auditorium and 75 on the stage.” The elementary music classes are held in a small room of 390 square feet, where the MSBA guideline is 1,000 square feet.

The committee talked about adding two music classrooms, one in elementary and one in middle school, 1,000 and 1,700 square feet respectively. Doyle suggested that if enrollment should climb above projections, the elementary music room could be converted into a classroom. The room currently used for elementary music could be divided into three practice rooms.

A multi-purpose room

The SBC also discussed adding a 2,400 square-foot multi-purpose room which would be used for band practice and school assemblies. SBC member Bill Fink said, “This room could be used by the rest of the community also.” An additional 400 square feet of storage for instruments would be provided so that instrument cases would not have to be left on the floor, which is what happens now in the Corey Building entrance.

Student support

By law, adequate space must be provided for special education, literacy and math support. “We have been cited (by the Department of Education) for inadequate learning spaces for student support,” stated Doyle. “We need to keep in mind how much education has changed in the past 15 years. We have new requirements. We have had students meeting in storage closets and hallways.”

More space is being targeted for student services. The Wilkins learning center is one large room that houses five special educators and six aides. With the current number of students with special needs, the school would like five small rooms for the special educators. Another need seen is for a speech therapy room. The occupational therapy room in Spalding is not handicapped accessible, which was cited by the DOE.

English Language Learners

English Language Learners (ELL) is a program for students whose primary language is not English. The ELL program is mandated at both the state and federal levels and will require an ELL teacher and dedicated space for English instruction and support. The space must be separate from special education space.∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito