Five Things You Missed at School Committee: School Building Projects and Alcohol Policy Change

The committee, which met Monday, Oct. 1, also heard an update on the district's preschool program.

1. Electrical issues at F.A. Day

During a facilities update at Monday night's meeting, Deputy Superintendent/Chief Administrative Officer Sandy Guryan informed the committee of the power loss at F.A. Day Middle School last week, which happened while crews were tying in a new water loop to feed the sprinkler system. Guryan praised the School Department, Public Buildings Department, Inspectional Services and the Fire Department for the quick response and hard work to make sure the problem was resolved and school started on time Thursday. 

According to Chief of Operations Mike Cronin, crews "worked through the night" Wednesday to make sure power was back on for school Thursday. Crews had another late night Friday working until 2:30 a.m. Saturday to make sure the school was back on the electrical grid and off the temporary generator.

Aside from the trouble last week, Guryan said the F.A. Day expansion/renovation project is "going along on its time schedule and everything has [worked out] exactly as expected."


2. Angier Elementary/Carr project update

As the process of rebuilding of Angier Elementary moves forward, plans for the renovation of Carr Elementary also move forward. Once renovations are complete, Carr will serve as a swing space for Angier students while their school is under construction. 

Guryan told the committee Monday night that the city's Design Review Committee unanimously approved the site plan for the Carr renovation project. The plans will likely go before the Board of Aldermen sometime later this month, Guryan said.

Meanwhile, the Angier Elementary rebuilding project is also moving along. Interviews were held yesterday in Boston with the two firms that are finalists for the new Angier design. Guryan, School Committee member Steve Siegel and city Chief Financial Officer Maureen Lemieux were the Newton representatives during the interview process.

Once the contract is negotiated with the chosen design firm, the feasibility study for the site will begin. Guryan said she is expecting that study to start sometime this month.


3. Capital Improvement Plan is in the works

Although CFO Maureen Lemieux could not make it to the School Committee meeting Monday night, Guryan assured the committee that the School Department and the city have been working closely on developing the city's Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), which Mayor Setti Warren will present on Oct. 15. 

"We're working together and it's very promising," Guryan said.

The Angier Elementary project and two other district schools will be included in the five-year CIP presented later this month, Guryan said. In addition, the School Department is trying to find a way to fit in an item that would address space needs of the district's preschool program. 


4. Preschool program update

Director of Early Childhood Michael Thurm presented an update on the district's preschool program Monday night.

The program, which is split between the Education Center and Lincoln-Eliot Elementary, consists of 11 total classrooms and an enrollment of 216 students. That enrollment, Thurm said, has been increasing by about 80 students each year. 

Of the 216 students enrolled, 67 are students with special needs and 76 are in the program just for the special needs "related services", Thurm said, such as speech and language therapy. 

As he has said in the past, Thurm noted Monday night that having the preschool program in two locations is a struggle. One location would help with program flexibility, student transitions and teacher collaboration, he said. It could also reduce travel time for some employees and provide more suitable classroom spaces for students, Thurm said.

As noted above (#3), Guryan said the School Department and city are working together to try to address the preschool program's space needs in the Capital Improvement Plan.


5. Alcohol policy change

The School Committee considered Monday night a policy change that would allow alcohol in school buildings for fundraising events.

The current policy does not allow any alcohol in school buildings whatsoever, but according to committee member Margie Ross Decter, Massachusetts law allows School Committees to make some exceptions to that policy. 

If passed, the policy would allow non-profit organizations to possess and sell alcoholic beverages in school buildings or on school grounds for events during non-school hours. Applicants would be required to get approval from the School Committee, police chief and the city's Board of License Commissioners, Decter said.

School Committee Chair Claire Sokoloff noted that the revised policy will help the district "as public and private partnerships are increasingly central to [its] strategy." 

The committee researched similar policies in neighboring communities, including Brookline, Sokoloff said.

Although the current draft of the policy states that students cannot be present if alcohol is served, the committee revised some of the language to be more flexible in cases where students must be present at an event that includes alcohol (such as a jazz band performance). The committee will vote on the policy in a future meeting.


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