The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 9, 2009

State advises smaller Carlisle School building project

During a December 12 meeting with representatives from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), the Carlisle School Building Committee learned the scope of its project may have to be scaled back, reported Carlisle School Committee (CSC) member Bill Fink. A number of issues were discussed during the meeting, Fink explained to the CSC on December 17. Using a lower enrollment projection, the MSBA is predicting less space will be required in the school. Concerns were raised about the planned number of “core” classrooms, the size of the existing Corey Auditorium, the proposed Engineering classroom and multi-purpose room, and new administrative spaces.

The School Building Committee expects to request design funds this spring at a Special Town Meeting. The meeting was planned for this month, but was postponed due to unanswered questions the committee had posed to the MSBA. Carlisle School Superintendent Marie Doyle said she is hopeful a Special Town Meeting can be held in March to vote on design funds. Fink said information about the building project will be mailed to town residents in early January.

An outstanding concern for the Building Committee was the amount of reimbursement the town would receive for approved construction. “The big progress that was made,” reported Fink, “is that we now have a written confirmation of 40% reimbursement for the project.” School projects approved by the MSBA could potentially receive between 30% to 40% reimbursement. However, only work approved by the MSBA will receive the reimbursement.

Lower enrollment estimate drives school size

One of the criteria the MSBA uses to judge school building projects is a projected enrollment. “One concern that we had,” said Fink, “was that the MSBA would come back and tell us the project was too small.” Instead the project may be reduced, due in part to a smaller enrollment projection for 2012. “It is not going to be more than $20 million,” he added.

Doyle said the MSBA has given the school an enrollment projection of 640 students by 2012. The Building Committee has been using 700 as an enrollment figure while waiting for the MSBA’s official figure. With an enrollment figure of 640, the state questioned the number of planned classrooms, explained Doyle to the CSC.

The core classrooms proposed include one pre-kindergarten room, 36 classrooms for grades K – 8, an Engineering classroom, a Science prep room, and two world language classrooms, one of which can be used as a classroom for the Concord Area Special Education Collaborative (CASE) if necessary. The 36 core classrooms (K – 8) result in an average class size of 17 under the MSBA’s enrollment figure of 640. The school has recommended the following class sizes: for K-2, 18 or fewer students; for grades 3-5, 18-21 students; and for grades 6-8, 21-25 students.

New engineering classroom

Doyle explained the need for an engineering classroom. “As we take a look at the state standards, they have what’s called the Science and Technology curriculum that calls for an engineering classroom.” She said that the specialized classroom would enable students to create a computer model of an engineering design and then actually build and test the design.

State questions planned $1 million multi-purpose room

Fink said two issues the MSBA brought up are the Corey Auditorium and proposed multi-purpose room. “Compared to our town size,” Fink explained, “the MSBA says it [the Corey Auditorium] is a larger than necessary auditorium.” It is included in the current fine arts space, which, he explained, “puts us over their limits of what a school of our size student-wise should have for a fine arts program.”

Fink said in discussions the building committee has explained to the MSBA that “the auditorium is actually a town function room. It is used for many other things besides school activities.” So when we talked about adding a music classroom or a multi-purpose room they look and say you are already over the limit.”

The Building Committee is proposing construction of a new multi-purpose room, roughly 2,500 square feet, which would be used for band and chorus rehearsals as well as classroom presentations. When the Spalding Building was constructed in the 1950s it contained a multi-purpose room, which was eventually broken up into classrooms. CSC chair Chad Koski asked, “The MSBA thinks having our kids learn music in the hallways is a good time?”

Fink replied that the MSBA appears to be “receptive” to hearing about the multi-purpose room, “but they have to go through their process, which is just looking at the square footage. “But now we are down to discussing the multi-purpose room versus the auditorium.” He said they told the MSBA the auditorium is not a dependable space. “It could be scheduled for other purposes and it may not be appropriate for some of the uses we have been trying to use it for,” he said. “That’s how we are justifying the multi-purpose room for school activities.”

“The School Committee needs to advise us on the multi-purpose room,” said Doyle. The multi-purpose room would be used daily by the band director after 11 a.m., explained Doyle, and the students’ instruments could be kept there. Currently the band rehearses on the Corey Auditorium stage. Before 11 a.m. “the multi-purpose room could be use for authors’ breakfast or Native American display,” explained Doyle. “It could be used for team meetings or an advisory group, so it would be used for all kinds of purposes.” She added, “If the school should go through a period of sudden growth, the room could be divided into three classrooms.”

“The Building Committee is in favor of it. The question is,” Doyle continued, “would we support it if we did not get 40% reimbursement? At that point it would cost the town about $1,000,000” instead of $600,000 with state funds paying the remaining $400,000. “What are people’s thoughts on the multi-purpose room with or without reimbursement?” The CSC voted to approve the educational specifications as laid out on the Proposed Space Summary report. They did not take a vote on the multi-purpose room.

World language classrooms

Doyle said the MSBA questioned the need for two separate middle school world language classrooms, again based on the enrollment projection. The specifications list two classrooms, but one is noted as shared with a CASE collaborative classroom. “We are going back to one world language classroom and one CASE classroom” on the specifications, explained Doyle. “I know from other superintendents that collaborative classrooms are receiving more support from the MSBA.” When the CASE classroom is not necessary, it would be available as a world language classroom, she explained. Currently three languages, Spanish, French and Chinese, are offered in the middle school (grades 6 – 8). Table 1 shows foreign languages offered in schools similar to Carlisle. The data was compiled from the Department of Education and individual schools’ websites.The Carlisle School has the lowest population of middle school students taking three languages.

Administration spaces

Another issue the MSBA discussed with the Building Committee was the spaces planned for administration. According to the specifications, the new administration spaces will include additional spaces for conference rooms. “The MSBA said that the administration area was over by 300 feet,” reported Doyle. She said the conference rooms “are really for groups of kids,” so she said there may be a way the architect can rename the space to conform to MSBA’s space rules. ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito