Daily Buzz | School Building Committee and Ways & Means Committee Continue Discussing School Projects
Plus, catch a buzz with the Buzz
Good Morning, Burlington!
Mark your calendars! There will be a Community Meeting about the proposed Elementary School Building Project September 18, 2023, at 7:00 PM at Burlington High School.
Also, catch up with the Buzz at tonight’s Beer Garden and Local Business Fest! We’ll be at Moran Street (next to Coldwell Banker in the Town Center) from 4:30-8:30 enjoying yummy food, good music, tasty Zero Gravity beer, and a great time!
The School Building Committee met earlier this week; their chief item of discussion was the decision-making process they’ll use to ultimately decide whether to build a single 325-student elementary school or a double “butterfly” school for 640 students on the Fox Hill campus.
The Committee participated in a demonstration for a software called ThoughtExchange, which the district has purchased in an effort to gain input from a wider range of stakeholders in the community. ThoughtExchange asks some demographic questions and then poses a single open-ended question to which stakeholders can respond. The demographic information is used to drill down the responses based on the respondent’s characteristics (such as neighborhood, whether they’re a teacher, parent, or taxpayer (or all three), etc.) so the Committee can get a fuller picture of what is important to different community members and groups.
There was a lot of discussion about the purpose and pitfalls of such a tool: Member Katherine Bond suggested she feels it will wrongfully offload the decision-making, while Member Martha Simon stated results should be one piece of the information pie rather than a prescription for the Committee’s action. The group plans to bring some questions to School Committee next Tuesday so the first open-ended question can be posed.
This software will be available to the town for other purposes apart from this project.
Various members of the School Building Committee expressed their current thoughts and concerns about enrollment (Is it going to go down as the state expects? Are special education students included in the capacity numbers?), redistricting (which will almost certainly happen and result in movement out of Fox Hill and into Francis Wyman and/or Memorial), the physical size and footprint of the new school (it will be 1.5-2x the square footage of the current school). Superintendent Eric Conti stated he thought a future Superintendent would prefer to have four school sites to manage, a sentiment shared by Members Christine Monaco and Katherine Bond, while other Committee members appear to be leaning more toward the 640-student model or still undecided. That said, while no decision has yet been made, information captured by the criteria matrix filled out by SBC members seems to suggest that the School Building Committee at large is leaning more heavily toward the 325-student school.
There was also disagreement during this meeting about whether or not the Committee should be considering the high school and other capital building projects. Some SBC members were of the mind that, since their charge is the Fox Hill project, their focus should be narrowed to that single project without regard to what might happen in the future. Others felt that the Fox Hill and future projects such as the high school are linked and that it’s necessary to consider that when making a decision.
Speaking of future capital projects, the Ways and Means Town Hall 1 Subcommittee met recently to discuss exactly that.
The group plans to create a dashboard to make it easier to understand projects, timelines, and cost projections. There will be nothing significant falling off the schedule in the upcoming years, which means that any of the projects we’ve been talking about (Fox Hill, BHS, the Police Station, Pine Glen) would need to be paid for using a debt exclusion, which is a temporary increase in taxes. This must be approved by voters.
Another thing to consider is that when residential taxes go up, so do commercial taxes. We have a huge corporate tax base here in Burlington, which is what keeps our taxes lower than just about every surrounding community. Burlington residents are accustomed to having low taxes, but large increases run the risk of pricing out some of the businesses that help keep residential taxes low. So—yet another consideration in a very complex decision-making process.
There will be a Community Forum about the Elementary School Building project on September 18 at 7:00 PM at BHS. Please come to learn more about the project options and share your input. And please pass the word along to everyone you know in Burlington!
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Today in Burlington
Municipal Meetings and Community Events
4:30-8:30 PM - Town Center Community Beer Garden & Local Business Fest featuring Zero Gravity beer as well as local restaurants and businesses. (“Community Corner” Pocket Park - Moran St.)
5:00 PM - Live music on the Green at 3rd Ave.
6:30 PM - Planning Board meets; see below for a summary of the agenda. (Town Hall and Virtual)
7:00 PM - Join the Historical Society as they begin their fall programming:
Our own Peter Coppola will share the history of "How our Ancestors survived the journey from England to establish homes in Massachusetts." Learn of the equipment and supplies they carried to their deeded land, and the steps they took to build a home and clear their fields.
This event will take place at the Human Services Building (Kelly Murray Wing on the first floor) at 61 Center Street. Doors open at 6:30 pm and the program begins at 7:00 pm. All are welcome. There is no admission fee and the building is handicap accessible. There will be a light refreshment served.
Sports and Activities
Junior varsity and varsity field hockey teams lost their games against Winchester yesterday 5-0 and 3-0, respectively. Today we have volleyball at home versus Winchester. JVA and JVB squads play at 4:00, and Varsity plays at 5:30.
That’s today’s Buzz. I hope to see you tonight at the Beer Garden. If not, I’ll see you again tomorrow morning—which, if I am not mistaken, will be Friday!