Today, officials from the public schools, Town and a School Research Subcommittee issued a letter to the public. The letter gives an overview of work done to date. Officials also promise “ample opportunity for the public to vet the options and the pro/cons associated” including cost with any options they explore.
The letter explains that the school district plans to submit a “Statement of Interest (SOI)” related to Neary School to the state’s school building program. It will request support from the Mass School Building Authority in exploring the potential renovation, rehab, or rebuilding of the school.
As the letter stresses, there’s no guarantee of acceptance to the program, especially short term. One reason for submitting the SOI now is to get in line for review.
At a May meeting, Superintendent Gregory Martineau noted that it can take 6 months to a year to hear back. According to Martineau, if accepted into the program, then next steps take 270 days. The support includes a more in-depth look at enrollment projections than the study they recently conducted.
The letter explains:
If the District is accepted into the Program, a complete assessment of the District’s operations – including current and proposed educational facilities, teaching methodology, grade configurations, and program offerings – will occur over the following nine months. The analysis includes a broad scope of options, including renovating, designing new, and consolidating schools.
As past messaging has stressed, the Town isn’t committed to following through with a building project if the project is selected. Meanwhile, the Subcommittee doesn’t plan to wait to hear back from the MSBA before taking more steps of their own to explore potential projects.
The assessment of the elementary school buildings was prompted by the combined increased municipal facility needs of the Town and the decline in student enrollments over time.
The Capital Planning Committee was interested in finding out if the districts’ buildings have spare capacity for other Town needs. And Superintendent Gregory Martineau has voiced the view that fewer K-5 buildings would be ideal. (As it is currently structured, elementary students transition between schools every two years.)
The letter reminds the public that the work of the Subcommittee takes place in open public meetings.*
This week, the School Committee is expected to vote to support submitting the SOI. According to a recent update to the Capital Planning Committee, Martineau will ask the Board of Selectmen to support issuing the SOI at their meeting next week. Chair of Capital and the Subcommittee, Jason Malinowski, told Capital last week that they will ask selectmen to extend their charge to the end of December. He said that he expects the Subcommittee to be busy this summer, working towards a recommendation to the Board. They may also be using the Special Town Meeting in the Fall to seek exploratory funding.
As for the odds of Neary School being accepted in the state program, Malinowski noted that in addition to prioritization by need, the state’s program depends on the amount of funds they have available for projects. Referencing the federal infrastructure bill, he pointed out that a Democratic version has a lot of funding for school infrastructure that isn’t in the Republican version. The likelihood for the Town’s project may be impacted by what a final approved package looks like.
For the full letter from the subcommittee, click here.
*You can find information on past and future public meetings through the Town’s website and YouTube page. (Click here for agendas and minutes. You can also find information on the May 17th joint meeting with the Southborough School Committee’s Capital Planning Subcommittee here. Videos of all of those meetings are available here.)