Friday, March 13, 2009
CCHS eyes future if state building aid delayed again
Concord Carlisle School Superintendent Diana Rigby spoke about high school building plans at her monthly Friday tea on March 6, and Jerry Wedge of the Regional School Committee (RSC) addressed the Selectmen Tuesday on the same subject. After multiple submissions to the Massachusetts School Building Association (MSBA), hope is dwindling that Concord-Carlisle Regional High School (CCHS) will soon be chosen to receive state building funds. Over the past nine years the high school has deferred needed repairs, and now roof replacement has become critical. This is a multi-million dollar investment that would not be portable to a new school. In addition, accreditation is suffering as the building is now in the “warning” category. “We’re at a crossroads,” said Rigby, “We have to make some choices.”
The RSC is presenting the Town Meetings of Concord and Carlisle with a request for $250,000 to come up with a feasible plan for moving forward without MSBA. A 2005 plan for replacing the school has been on hold waiting for MSBA to step up. That replacement plan would now cost in excess of $100 million, an amount Rigby believes is unreasonable without state funding. She noted the $250,000 planning study, if approved, would take the pulse of the community, evaluate each building to set priorities, and come up with a schematic plan and timeline. The project will also look at creative solutions, possibly including staged renovation or private funding. “We don’t know what the community has an appetite for,” she said.
At the Selectmens meeting Tuesday, Jerry Wedge of the RSC pointed to the pressure from the MSBA on one side and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), which accredits schools, on the other. CCHS has addressed issues of safety, such as fire detection equipment, venting hoods for chemistry labs and a PA system and phones in classrooms. It has also invested in transportable projects, such as bleachers that could move to a new facility, and those with short paybacks such as energy upgrades. But, says Wedge, the problem is that “there are a lot of facilities issues we can’t address without a major project.” Up to now the NEASC has held back but “I think they’re at the end of their patience.” The issues include inadequate facilities for science, special education and guidance, as well as lack of ADA compliance and a multi-page list of other shortfalls.
Rigby noted the school will continue to submit Statements of Intent (SOIs) to MSBA in spite of being put on hold (ie: refused) each of the past two years. The current third-year SOI is in process and the school hopes to hear from MSBA by the end of March. If the high school is on the list, the $250,000 request for planning will be removed from the Warrant at Town Meeting. However, Rigby noted that CCHS is not over-crowded, and is competing with schools that have 35 students to a room and are holding classes in hallways. According to Wedge, if the high school is on hold again, it is an indication that “we’re not rising to the top anytime soon.”
Selectman Tim Hult warned that in the current financial situation, “Money for studies is going to be questioned.” Wedge responded, “Without this planning we won’t know what to do next year.” He advised against a perpetual wait for MSBA to move. “At some point it becomes clear we’re not going to be on that list.” ∆
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