The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 12, 2008


School Building Committee to go forward with school building design

Interested townspeople hear Lee Storrs explain the Carlisle School building project at the public forum on Wednesday morning, December 3. (Photo by Ellen Huber)

At a public forum on Wednesday, December 3, Lee Storrs, Chair of the Carlisle School Building Committee (SBC) offered a number of reasons to move ahead quickly with the project. At the time, it was expected a Special Town Meeting would be held in January to vote on $450,000 to $500,000 for design and project management funds as a first step toward a $20 million project, of which $12 million would be funded by Carlisle taxpayers and $8 million by the state. That Town Meeting has since been postponed (see article).

Storrs cited both financial and educational advantages to launching the project sooner rather than later. The Spalding Building is in poor condition and should be torn down, but interim repairs, including a new roof, will be needed if it isn’t replaced soon. Other Carlisle School buildings also need repairs estimated at $4.5 million, and rolling those into the project would make them eligible for MSBA reimbursement. Although the MSBA has sent a letter confirming its intent to fund 40% of the project, there are many schools in line for state money and if Carlisle does not act, funding could be siphoned elsewhere. In addition, construction costs have been rising 7.5% a year and waiting risks increasing the price tag.

From the educational perspective, the school is crowded and facilities don’t allow for “how we’re teaching kids today.” For example, the inclusion model of Special Education requires smaller learning spaces and handicapped accessibility currently not provided. In the area of science and technology, the building plan would address shortfalls in science facilities and the lack of space for an engineering program. It would also provide for music and fine arts spaces consistent with the large numbers of students involved in these programs. Storrs noted that 20 kids now crowded into a music ensemble room designed for five to eight students and the chorus and band have constant scheduling problems with the over-used auditorium.

The plan would group the lower grades in one new building, offering improvements in learning, student support and safety. With pre-K to Grade 2 together, more vertical collaboration would be possible between the lower grades. Elementary administration and support services, including guidance and special education, would be close to classrooms. Outdoor transitions would be reduced, and enhanced building security appropriate for young students would be possible.

Project scope defined

Storrs then provided the detail of the project scope as defined by the SBC. All construction would be on the current site, with Spalding replaced by a new building located closer to the parking lot. The new building would house 13 classrooms serving pre-K to grade 2, as well as the elementary principal, and elementary special education, music and guidance. A multi-purpose room for assemblies and concerts would also be provided in that building.

Moving the lower grades out of Robbins and Wilkins would open space for other needs. The current second grade classrooms would be repurposed for occupational and physical therapy, English Language Learner (ELL), a conference room, upper grade guidance and administration, and a math center. The current pre-K space would become an engineering classroom. Science labs would be updated and renovated, and needed repairs would be made to the buildings, including roofs, energy efficient windows, and air handlers.

Storrs noted the project would provide for school needs now and well into the future. Seven hundred students would be accommodated, fewer than the 723 population currently, but consistent with projections of decreasing enrollment over the next years. The committee will continue to monitor housing turnover and new developments to avoid a situation in which “the day it opens we don’t have enough space,” said Storrs. Improvements and additions to science and technology spaces would bring the school in conformance to the state curriculum frameworks.

If the design funds are approved in early 2009, a project plan for funding of the rest of the expected $20 million project (with $8 million reimbursement from the state) would be presented for a vote at a Special Town Meeting in late 2009 or early 2010. This would include $10 million for the new building, $6 million for repairs and repurposing of existing buildings, and $4 million for the OPM and contingencies. “It will be eighteen months after (design) approval before we get a project out to bid,” said Storrs. At the earliest, construction would begin in fall 2010 with occupancy planned for fall of 2012.

Cynthia Sorn of Rutland Street asked about the certainty of MSBA approval. Since that date a written confirmation of MSBA reimbursement at 40% has been received, but details of the project scope are still in negotiation. Storrs noted that although

423 towns submitted requests for MSBA funds, Carlisle is one of only eleven schools that have been allowed to proceed to the schematic design phase.

Alex Krapf of Ice Pond Rd. questioned the timing. “Many analysts predict a deflationary period” with “some towns canceling projects.” Storrs said the Town Meeting vote is “an incremental step” and the project does not have to go forward immediately afterward. On the other hand, “we are preparing ourselves to take advantage of a pretty good competitive bidding environment” in which projects are receiving 12 to 15 bidders versus five or six a year ago.

Krapf asked about the overall financial cost, and Sean Fennell, Owner Project Manager explained that the state would be contributing funding on a pay as you go basis. Town Financial Director Larry Barton said the town would bond the $12 million, not the full $20 million, and at just under 4% interest, the overall cost of financing over 20 years is expected to be $18 to $19 million.

Superintendent Marie Doyle responded to a question from Margaret Gladstone of Curve Street regarding the need for a new school when enrollment is dropping. She said, “There are many state and federal mandates regarding space” and “we’ve been very overcrowded for a long time.” In the last audit, the school was cited for inadequate spaces. In addition, Spalding’s quality rating of four, the worst possible, requires action.

Carol Wolossow of Cross Street wondered what would be done to minimize disruption for students during construction. Storrs noted that Spalding will be retained until the new building is completed, allowing students to continue in classrooms rather than trailers. The site will be isolated and CORI checks required of anyone entering. OPM Fennell observed that his firm has managed building projects on occupied sites, including a school in Littleton and the Concord Willard School. “A person whose primary role is student safety” is dedicated to each project and is there every day to deal with access, dust, noise, fencing, etc. Trucks are routed onto the site from an entrance away from students.

Storrs pointed out that one of the advantages of building rather than renovating is the ability to move seamlessly from Spalding to the new facility. In addition, “Spalding has seen the end of its useful life” and the MSBA has indicated it would support a replacement, but not a renovation of that building.

With all questions answered, the meeting wrapped up a half hour early. Storrs suggested anyone with further questions or suggestion can contact the committee at the email address

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito