Superintendent to form committee to evaluate school building needs

The question of whether Southborough needs fours schools or whether it could get away with three has been an ongoing debate for several years now. The School Committee has looked into the issue in the past, but Superintendent Charles Gobron said at a meeting earlier this month he plans to form a new committee dedicated to evaluating Southborough’s school housing needs.

Gobron told the K-8 School Committee at their June meeting that he asked Neary Principal Linda Murdock to chair the committee which will focus on fact-finding.

The committee’s goal Gobron said will be to, “gather good data that we can all agree on, present a report to the School Committee, and to thoroughly examine what we’re going to do as the population changes.”

Earlier this year, former Advisory Committee member Al Hamilton presented data that suggested a “substantial downward trend in school populations” over the next decade. According to census data, Hamilton said enrollment will likely decrease by 35 to 40 percent by 2020. Gobron at the time said he did not agree with Hamilton’s projections.

Since the town owns the school buildings, Gobron said any discussion of shuttering one – with Neary being the most likely candidate – should involve town officials. “If Neary School closed, what would it be used for? We haven’t talked about this,” Gobron said.

“I don’t think we can do this whole process in a vacuum,” School Committee Chairperson Kathleen Harragan Polutchko said. “If we got to a position where we thought we should close Neary, would the town even want it?”

The committee is expected to begin work when school resumes in September. In addition to Murdock, Gobron said he would like the committee to have a representative from the School Committee, as well as teachers, parents, and members of the community. If you’re interested, contact the Office of the Superintendent at (508) 486-5115.

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Al Hamilton
11 years ago

This is a step in the right direction. In December, the Superintendent presented a school population forecast to the k-8 school committee. This forecast was done by an outside consulting group. The methodology used was very similar to the one I used. Through 2017 there is no meaningful difference between my estimate and the Superintendent’s estimate. We differ a little by the time we get to 2020. My estimate is about 905 students and the Superintendents is about 990. So, we have 2 independent estimates that both say we will have populations declines on the order of 30% to 40% from where we are today and nearly 50% from our peak and designed capacity.

The challenge of planning for closing a school is not small. Among the items that needs to be addressed is the Trottier septic capacity (it may require spending money to expand the capacity so we can better use the facility). Staffing issues and reductions will have to be worked out, we will probably have to spend some money on moving.

The Municipal side will also need a plan. If Neary is declared surplus to the needs of the school system it will revert to the town. Neary is a building in good conditions we spend a substantial sums over about 3 years to upgrade the building. I believe that the town would be well advised to consolidate all of the activities that currently happen in Fayville Hall, The South Union School building, and Cordaville Hall into Neary. This would be facility upgrade for all concerned. We could then dispose of all of the vacant buildings (all are moneypits) and operate more in a more cost effective fashion.

I believe that this configuration would serve the town well into the late 2020’s

The fate of Neary has always been the lynchpin of the towns municipal facilities plan.

Neil Rossen
11 years ago

Well done, again, Al. At least Gobron gets some credit for formally taking up what will probably be a prickly, but necessary topic.

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