Daily Buzz | Community Forum Yields Thoughtful Questions
Thorough presentation presented all options with caveats
Yesterday evening, what’s now being called the Burlington Elementary School Building Committee held a community forum.
The link to join provided on the town website (and therefore in the Buzz) didn’t work, though the joining information in the flyer was correct. Host Bob Cunha was responding to messages and many of us went online to share the proper link to allow as many people as possible to join. The meeting will be available for review later, and the Buzz will share it when it’s posted.
Donna DiNisco, the representative from the design firm, started out with a very thorough hour-long presentation outlining both the current program and the options being investigated through the feasibility study.
As a part of the initial process, the team laid out project goals, including but not limited to:
Security & technology
Staff focus groups identified lots of educational priorities, as well, including but not limited to:
Safe, inclusive, welcoming environment
Teacher workspace and collaborative spaces
They also took into account adjacencies, or how space could be arranged for maximum efficiency and time on learning, as well as enrollment and population projections (keeping 18 students per classroom) to start thinking about options for the new school.
At this point, the team is starting to think about all the different possible concepts MSBA (the Massachusetts School Building Authority, who is subsidizing this work) is requiring them to investigate. Again it was emphasized that no decisions have been made.
Option 1: Repair and provide code upgrades to Fox Hill for 325 students. This really serves as a benchmark of what it would cost to keep the school and make no improvements.
Option 2: Fox Hill addition/renovation. This would be a challenge, because students would be relocated during construction, and we don’t have anywhere else to put them.
Option 3A: Fox Hill new construction for 325 students to the east, near the back corner of the lot. The school would have a smaller footprint but larger square footage with multi-floor building.
Option 3B: Fox Hill new construction for 325 students to the north of the school in front of the existing parking lot.
Option 4: Fox Hill repairs/code upgrades to accommodate 640 students.
Option 5: Fox Hill addition/renovation to accommodate 640 students. Similarly to option 2, though, students would need a place to go while construction is being completed.
Option 6A: Fox Hill new construction for 640 students (2 3-story wings with shared facilities) to the east of where the school is now, again near the back of the lot.
Option 6B: Fox Hill new construction for 640 students to the north of where the school is now, again in front of the parking lot.
Option 7: Pine Glen addition/renovation for 640 students. Similar to what was mentioned above, students won’t have a place to go during renovations, and also the space post-construction including staff accommodations and outdoor space would be severely limited on this site.
Option 8: Pine Glen new construction for 640 students. Works better than Option 7, but community and outdoor space is still extremely limited.
Of course, we could just construct Fox Hill with 325 students with the MSBA reimbursement (Option 3A or 3B) and then construct a new Pine Glen without MSBA support. That’s a lot of money and it would need to come from somewhere (i.e. taxes). That said, the effective reimbursement from MSBA will be only somewhere between 25 and 46% of the total project, and it’s probably going to be toward the lower end. That is still many millions of dollars, but we’re going to need to come up with a chunk of change regardless of which option we end up settling on.
In any of the combined models, the presenter spoke of having two separate schools with their own identities, staffs, front offices, etc. on the same campus, sharing facilities, though this didn’t seem to be 100% clear to all community members who participated in the Q&A.
A traffic study was also performed at Fox Hill and they found that arrival went more smoothly than dismissal, with traffic on the streets but no cars queuing beyond the ring road where drop-off takes place. During dismissal, cars line up on two different streets leading up to the entry to Fox Hill for up to 30 minutes before dismissal, because the ring road is blocked off so students can use that area until just a few minutes before school is let out.
It was noted that both Fox Hill and Pine Glen students have nowhere to relocate while construction is being completed, so they’d need to remain in place while the building is being built—and this eliminates several of the options as possibilities.
Other concerns that came out of the meeting were ones we’ve heard before:
Suspicion about enrollment estimates (the formula they use to calculate it, though, is super fascinating and very thorough, and enrollment across the state has been flat or decreasing for years) and questions about how the space will adapt if enrollment does increase
Community: Many expressed that small schools are best for kids, or at least asked for data to point one way or the other. (Again, the options being discussed are for two distinct schools with their own staff and community feel.)
Shared facilities: How will lunch work with twice the students? How will evening events work? How will the schedule work?
Physical size: A school that holds 640 students is much larger than what we have, and also it would be 3 stories high and some were concerned that it would be intimidating to kids.
Looking at current enrollment data, the projected numbers for this study mean that 50+ students would need to be added to both Francis Wyman and Memorial.
There were more thoughts and concerns, but I had to tap out at some point. Most of the people who spoke were residents who live very close to one of the schools—mostly Fox Hill. We didn’t hear from residents from different parts of town or whose children attend Francis Wyman or Memorial.
Another item of note: Moving PG students over to FH, or vice-versa, would vacate one site for other uses, such as relocation of students or offices during work on BHS.
There will be another community forum in July and the designs they’ll be considering will be presented to the MSBA just afterward. And, another will be held in the fall will be held as they close in on a preferred schematic option.
Today in Burlington
Meetings and Events
Nothing on the town calendar, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be fun to be had.
3:30-5:30 PM - Drop in LEGO build at the library: Finish Bowser’s Ship (Grades 3-6)
7:00 PM - HELPIS Celebration of Kindness at the American Legion. Tickets here!
Sports and Activities
Yesterday was an exciting, winning day in Red Devils sports as our teams won against Wilmington across the board.
Boys won their lacrosse game against Wilmington yesterday with a score of 18-3. The baseball team also beat Wilmington, 5-3. And, the boys’ tennis team won in Wilmington with a score of 4-1, clinching the Middlesex Freedom title!
In girls’ sports, the tennis team won a 3-2 decision against Wilmington and the lacrosse teams won both of their games, with varsity shutting Wilmington out 15-0 and JV winning 10-4. Our softball team also won their game 5-2.
We’re light on the activities today, with just boys’ volleyball on the calendar. They’ll be traveling to Framingham, with JV playing at 4:30 and Varsity playing at 6:00.
There’s more volleyball tomorrow, with both varsity and JV playing at 8:00 AM in Salem. Additionally, we’ll be hosting Bedford for baseball at 10:00 and traveling to Acton-Boxborough for boys’ lacrosse at 7:00 PM.
Sunday, the girls will be hosting Boston Latin School lacrosse, with Varsity playing at 12:30 and JV at 2:00.
Have fun at that Celebration of Kindness this evening! Hope you party in style!
That’s all I’ve got for you for today. See you tomorrow or Sunday!