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Newton Admins Lay Out Early Plan for School Building Projects

Deputy Superintendent/Chief Administrative Officer Sandy Guryan presented both a 16- and 21-year plan for Newton Public School facilities.

The School Committee last night took some initial steps in what will be a lengthy process in addressing the district's aging infrastructure and crowded schools. 

Deputy Superintendent/Chief Administrative Officer Sandy Guryan presented two long-term facilities scenarios that outlined both expansion and rebuilding at the district's elementary schools.

"We have a lot more work to do besides Angier [Elementary]," said Superintendent David Fleishman. 

During her presentation, Guryan showed timelines that alternated "large" rebuilding projects (such as ) as well as "mid-range" projects that involve expansion or renovation (such as ).

Guryan presented two scenarios for tackling the facilities needs, one of which spanned 16 years and the other 21 years. The rough estimate for total cost ranged from $245 - $276 million.

Overall, both plans would accommodate capacity for 6,000 elementary school students in the district across 53 new classrooms, with elementary school sizes ranging from 400-450 students (with the exception of Underwood at 300 students).

The timelines also plan for the district to partner with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) for some or all of the rebuilding projects, as it is hoping to do with the current Angier project. Partnering with the MSBA would mean the district would be reimbursed for at least 33 percent of the construction/planning costs of the project.

Below are summaries of the two timelines/scenarios for addressing the school facilities:

Scenario 1

  • All elementary school projects would be finished by fiscal 2027 (16-year plan)
  • A total of 53 new classrooms and more than 900,000 square feet of space built across 14 elementary schools
  • A new, large rebuilding project would start every two years
  • After Angier, expansion at Peirce Elementary would be next on the list, followed by a large rebuilding project at Zervas and expansion at Williams
  • Cabot Elementary would be the third large rebuilding project, and likely one that the MSBA would be a part of
  • The Carr School is constantly occupied as swing space for the students in those schools where a new building is being put in
  • At the plan's mid-point (fiscal 2019), a total of seven schools would be rebuilt or have new construction
  • Estimated cost after reimbursement (from MSBA) is $245 million

Scenario 2

  • All elementary school projects would be finished by fiscal 2033 (21-year plan)
  • A total of 53 new classrooms and more than 900,000 square feet built across 14 elementary schools (same as Scenario 1)
  • A new, large rebuilding project would start every four years
  • After Angier, expansion at Peirce Elementary would be next on the list, followed by a large rebuilding project at Zervas and expansion at Williams (same as Scenario 1)
  • Cabot Elementary would be the third large rebuilding project (same as Scenario 1)
  • The Carr School would be occupied by students from all schools under construction, regardless of the scope of construction
  • At the plan's mid-point (fiscal 2022), a total of six schools would be rebuilt or have new construction
  • Estimated cost after reimbursement (from MSBA) is $276 million

Even with the extensive elementary school project outlines, Guryan acknowledged that the district still has to consider a number of other factors including space and facilities at the four middle schools, space for the district's preschool and the possible redistricting down the road. 

Ward 2 School Committee member Jonathan Yeo reminded the committee and the public that redistricting will not be the only solution to the district's space needs.

"We can't just move the kids around and solve the problems," Yeo said. 

School Committee Chair Claire Sokoloff also acknowledged that the committee needs to have a discussion on its idea of "neighborhood" elementary schools and why it has gone down the route of keeping schools around 400 or 450 students, rather than going up to 500 or 550 students.

During a joint meeting between the School Committee and Board of Aldermen subcommittees last Wednesday, several aldermen questioned why , rather than adding more space for a growing district.

"I would want to hear recommendation from [the administrators] as to what the educational reasons are for continuing with that model," Sokoloff said.

For more coverage from last night's School Committee, stay tuned to Newton Patch later this week. 

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