Master Planning and Visioning Prepares for March 31 Community Meeting

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Thursday March 19, 2015

After many months of data gathering, discussion, and evaluation, and ten, four-hour meetings, the City/School Master Planning and Visioning Task Force will present its findings at a community meeting Tuesday, March 31 from 6:30-9 p.m. at the Tuttle Middle School cafeteria.

Prior to sifting through community meeting details at the March 9 task force meeting, Chair Art Klugo delved into a key topic of discussion regarding the Central School property. He asked the group if they were in favor of the school board soliciting a request for proposals (RFP) regarding the re-use of the property. This would provide an opportunity to find out if there are developers who might offer alternatives in addition to the Saxon Partners proposal for the site. Monica Ostby suggested confirming the status of form based code first, but Klugo pointed out that developers could be asked to create RFPs based upon current or future land development regulations and that form based code implementation should not be a deterrent.

Chuck Hafter asked, “What is the scope of this RFP? Unless you’re serious about awarding a contract to someone, you shouldn’t issue an RFP, since the people developing proposals will be spending a lot of money to do so.” Bruce Chattman pointed to a potential negative to the process, which is the emotional reaction an RFP could elicit from the community. “The community will get the impression that a decision has already been made regarding the Central property,” Chattman said.

After considerable discussion, it was concluded that it is too early to put an RFP out, since there’s uncertainty about what the school board would be seeking. The group considered a motion recommending that an RFP be released at a time of the school board’s choosing, for the re-use, re-purposing, sale or lease of the Central property. It was decided that this motion would be tabled.

School Configuration Options

Business Manager John Stewart and Annette Harton, a financial analyst, presented options for seven school configurations and their related tax implications projected out to 2024.

• Option 1: everything remaining “as is” with the three elementary schools, current middle and high schools.
• Option 2: “as is” plus New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) recommendations and ADA requirements.
• Option 3: 2 elementary schools with Orchard (K-2), a new build (3-5), and the current middle and high schools with NEASC recommendations and ADA requirements.
• Option 4: 2 elementary schools, both new builds, with current middle and high schools with NEASC recommendations and ADA requirements.
• Option 5: 1 elementary school new build K-5, middle and high school with NEASC recommendations and ADA requirements.
• Option 6: 1 elementary school (K-4) in existing middle school, a middle school (5-8) in the existing high school, and building a new high school.
• Option 7: 1 elementary school (K-5) in existing high school, middle school (6-8) with NEASC recommendations and ADA requirements and a new build high school.

The cost estimates ranged from $45,747,228 (the school budget which recently passed) for the “as is” option, up to $95,840,000 for Option 6 which provides 1 elementary school (K-4) in existing middle school, a middle school (5-8) in existing high school, and a new build high school option.

Community Meeting

Paula Cope of Cope and Associates, led the discussion regarding organization of the community meeting. An overview of the work of the task force and a presentation of the options will be followed by comments from City Manager Kevin Dorn, Superintendent David Young, and Art Klugo, task force chair. Community members will then have a chance to look more deeply into the proposed school configuration options through an interactive exercise using Cope’s Big Deal® discussion cards. Participants will rank their favorites and have an opportunity to engage in dialogue.

“The idea is to continue to inform and engage with the community positively so people walk away feeling as if they’ve been heard,” Cope said. “We’re not asking people to choose a final option and we need to be explicit: this is not a vote,” she emphasized.

Chuck Hafter commented that one of the primary goals is to garner a wide variety of opinions at the community meeting.

After receiving public input, the task force will determine what recommendations they will forward to the city’s Steering Committee for consideration.

Task force meetings are open to the public; meeting minutes and agendas can be found at the city website: www.sburl.com.

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent