The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 6, 2009

Minuteman High hopes to spruce up campus

Seeks new building feasibility study

Carlisle’s membership in the Minuteman Regional School District (MMRSD) allows students a technical high school alternative to Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS). At an information meeting on October 23, Dr. Ed Bouquillon, Superintendent, announced the MMRSD will be asking each of the 16 member towns to approve funding at their spring Town Meetings for a building feasibility study for the Minuteman Career and Technical High School. The Massachusetts School Building Association (MSBA) has approved 40% funding of the study to investigate “a potential limited addition and/or renovation to the existing building.” The building project would address maintenance problems and facilities issues impacting the education at the school.

It is anticipated the study will cost $1,100,000 of which MSBA will assume 40%. Carlisle, at its current 1.7% of the student population, would be responsible for $12,387, or a maximum of $1.03 per year per household. Although the cost of the study would be insignificant for Carlisle, the building project to follow, which would also need Town Meeting approvals, is estimated at $98 million before MSBA reimbursement, and could cost Carlisle taxpayers a total of about $1.7 million, according to a chart supplied by the district.

Needs change as programs evolve

In a phone interview last Friday, Bouquillon noted the school has not been renovated or repurposed in its 35-year history. In that time, the programs and goals of technical education have changed dramatically. “Of the programs they had in mind when the school was built in 1974, very few still exist,” he says. Instead, the focus has shifted to “preparing students for college as well as the workforce environment” and forming “strategic partnerships with area businesses to provide adult education and workforce training.” Among those partners are companies such as Genzyme and Shire Pharmaceuticals.

Bouquillon notes with pride that an innovative partnership with Siemens has solved many of the school’s energy problems at no cost to the member communities. An agreement was arrived at through which $5 million in core system upgrades, including boiler, cooling tower, electric switch, and management systems, would be paid for out of operational energy savings over the next 16 years. “Those core systems no longer need to be part of the project,” he says.

However, Bouquillon noted that a number of building challenges remain, including failing roofs, lack of natural light and ventilation, inadequate communications and utilities infrastructure, an awkward entry to community programs and lack of handicapped-accessibility. Lab space, especially in biotech and environmental areas, is “not up to current industry standards.” Although it is unlikely to be reimbursed by MSBA, Bouquillon also sees a need for a school auditorium as there is currently no place to gather the student body.

The statement of interest to the MSBA points to a number of shortfalls. “Having been designed on the “open classroom/minimum window” model of the 70s,” it says, “the facility lacks sufficient natural light, acoustical separation, power and data distribution and communications infrastructure needed to support modern, project-based, comprehensive technical education.”

Specialties that provide community services, such as Cosmetology, Culinary Arts, and Early Childhood Care “are buried within the facility and lack basic accessibility” such that reduced public interface “severely limits students’ ability to gain competencies.” Industrial programs housed in the “Trades Hall” have “no access to the outside, no natural lighting, no dedicated classroom space and inadequate acoustical separations.” Science and engineering programs “are in need of significant updating of equipment and fixtures.”

Costs shared by towns

Capital costs are split among member communities according to the percentage of students in the school as of October 1. In-district enrollment currently sits at 437.5 students of which 7.5 are from Carlisle (the half-time students also take courses at their town high schools). The town is responsible for a minimum assessment of five students, even if the Carlisle enrollment dips lower. A plan is being formed to gather contributions toward the capital plan from non-member communities that send students to the school.

Enrollment declining

The Minuteman High School, located on Route 2A on the Lexington/Concord line, has seen enrollment follow a slow downward trend, with 724 students in 2007 and 689 in 2009. At the October 23 meeting Bouquillon pointed to opportunities to increase enrollment, noting that member communities send fewer than 3% of their ninth-grade students to the school, versus 12% of ninth-grade students state-wide who participate in career and technical education. The district has researched job trends in Massachusetts with the goal of raising enrollment by better addressing employer needs. Under consideration is the addition of programs in criminal justice, animal science and theater arts, whereas a program in office technology will likely be merged with another specialty.

For more information, the website for the school is Carlisle’s representative on the school committee is Mariellen Perugini. ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito