The School Committee to vote on the plan April 18
The School Building Committee unanimously voted to recommend option C to the School Committee, which will vote on the plan at its April 18 meeting. The decision comes a day after the Town Council voted to approve a not-to-exceed $180 million for proposed school construction. The building committee is advisory only. It is up to the School Committee first and then the Town Council to approve the basic proposal. Voters won’t weigh in until November.
“The next step now really is making sure that we can provide detailed drawings and cost estimating to prove what the $130 vs. $150 vs. $180 million actually buys,” said Derek Osterman, project manager at Colliers, the building consulting firm working with the district. He stressed that the numbers allocated for each item within the project were subject to change based on drawings.
At this stage, plan C has been broken into two options. Both options would see Hanaford and Frenchtown becoming 1-5 schools, with Meadowbrook being dedicated to PK-K, Eldredge being closed as a school, and some renovations being made to EGHS. Option C1 is estimated to be more costly, with a new building at Hanaford, whereas Option C2 would look to renovate the existing building. The iterations of C have estimated budgets of $150 million (C1) and $130 million (C2), which are subject to change, according to Osterman.
“I favor that approach to have a specific plan,” said Town Council President Mark Schwager. “That gets the ball rolling, there’s ample opportunity for community engagement, additional changes, and options.”
Money for EGHS
“I really want to do meaningful things to the high school,” said Tim Munoz, a member of the School Committee as well as the School Building Committee. “But you can’t do that at the expense of the elementary schools.”
Munoz said he’s aware community members argue that every EG student would benefit from an expansive high school renovation but said, “100 percent of the students will go through these two elementary schools.”
All plans, including the one unanimously voted on by the committee, allocate $20 million to the high school, which was a point of contention with residents at both public forums held in March.
Speaking to that point, Osterman said, “I think the consulting team hears you. If we do this in a fiscally responsible way such that we don’t blow the budget on any one big shiny thing, but we try to hit everything – there is a real focus on the high school.”
One member of the committee who wanted to take a wait-and-see approach to allocate funds to the high school renovation is Town Manager Andy Nota.
As the plan develops, he said, new numbers will clarify the scope of the project. He went on to hypothesize that some drawings might prove aspects of the plan cheaper than originally estimated. “That may be a game changer where we’ve got an extra $10 or $15 or $20 million or more for the high school.”
In addition to the vote on this recommendation by the School Committee in two weeks, the committee discussed upcoming community engagement efforts.
Supt. Brian Ricca said he will be reaching out to EG school principals about establishing public walking tours of the schools to take place sometime after the spring recess.
Also, the details of the school building construction plan, timeline, and the ability for the public to comment on them and engage with public officials can be found on the new community engagement page HERE.