Back in January 2016, one of the School Committee members made it very clear that her vote in favor of grade reconfiguration was contingent upon it being 2 co-located schools each with grades 2-6. She specifically stated that she did not support the grouping of all students in a single grade. The superintendent at that time reassured her that the building would be divided into “2 schools” and got her vote.
But just weeks later, plans for complete unification into a single 750 student school were alive and well and embedded in the current plan.
Below is an excerpt from the Schematic Design, the document submitted to the MSBA (state funding authority) in August. This letter is a response by the District’s consultants to the MSBA’s comments on the previous submission (the Preferred Schematic Report). Note that it is dated April 11, 2016 – three months after the School Committee vote on reconfiguration – and indicates that the plans are specifically designed to accommodate the conversion of this school into a “single grade 2-6 elementary school“.
The above referenced document also contains schematics of how easy the design makes it to change from “co-located schools” to a single school with each grade separated out into its own area.
The top 2 images are the first and second floor for the “co-located schools” and the bottom 2 images are for the single grade-based school.
Simply swap out “Grade 2” and “Grade 3” for “Grade 2/3” and “Grade 4” and “Grade 5” for “Grade 4/5” and Voila! – 150 kids in each grade. No need to do anything for Grade 6 since they’re already all together there.
The architects themselves have said that it is not easy or inexpensive to turn 2nd-6th grade classrooms into PreK or Kindergarten rooms should we learn the hard way that reconfiguration is not working . In order to change the school back to K-6, there would need to be 7 or 8 classrooms of the correct size (between 1100 and 1300 sq ft by MSBA standards) and with their own self-contained bathrooms. The proposed building has 4 slightly larger classrooms (1050 sq ft, as opposed to the 34 classrooms that are 950 sq ft) and none have their own bathrooms (see Schematic Design, p. 17). No renovation plans or cost estimates have been presented to indicate how much work or money it would take to make the necessary changes.
This building design is far more amenable to the superintendent’s original plan to maximize economies of scale by minimizing teachers and classes. If it goes forward, we are one School Committee vote and one financial downturn away from removing the veneer of “wings” and becoming a “single grade 2-6 elementary school”.
Note: You can find all this on pages 18, 415, 616 and 626-629 in the Schematic Design available here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0By0mz4P0v3bWaG9vUk54emJud2s/view